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Heart and cardiovascular system

Physical activity, a “drug” for cardiac rehabilitation

January 1, 2018


Physical activity is a pillar of cardiac rehabilitation. After an adverse cardiovascular event, such as ischemic heart disease, the patient is assigned to a rehabilitation program with the aim of recovering good health and reducing the risk of further adverse events. In addition to pharmacological therapy, the patient receives precise indications on a recommended lifestyle to follow: for years now it has been established that aerobic physical activity is the best tool for cardiovascular training in the event of heart disease. Physical exercise can be assimilated to a medication prescribed by the doctor.


Cardiac Rehabilitation and Movement

The control of weight, blood pressure, total cholesterol and fractions values, quitting cigarette smoking, a healthy diet, and physical activity practiced regularly are the areas around which the rehabilitation program is defined with the aim of stabilizing the patient’s clinical picture: every patient with ischemic heart disease in the post acute phase is directed to rehabilitation. Same as the entire rehabilitation program, the physical activity plan is also tailor-made based on parameters such as resting heart rate, stress and information on the functional capacity of the individual patient .


The physical activity plan is carried out in an outpatient setting and then the patient is informed of the self-managed domestic continuation always in relation to periodic specialist controls.


But how can physical activity for rehabilitation be carried out? Conveyor belts and cyclo-ergometers are used in healthcare facilities. However, as long as it is aerobic, any form of physical activity could be beneficial, even a walking program, Nordic walking, as well as cycling activities.

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Tai Chi can also be helpful?

In addition to aerobic physical activity, in selected patients, innovative programmes are being tested in recent years , such as interval training or performing exercises with small weights. Among the alternative programmes, research has also assessed the possible use of Tai Chi. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association by Brown University (United States) suggested its potential benefit as an additional option for physical activity: this is a pilot experiment, conducted on a very small number of patients (only 29) suffering from heart attack or undergoing coronary angioplasty.


The study also presents some interesting aspects but it is not possible to conclude by indicating Tai Chi as a form of physical activity for rehabilitation because its benefits have not been compared to those of a traditional program. The study compared two rehabilitation programs with Tai Chi of different duration. This discipline, which is based on gentle movements, could certainly be integrated into a rehabilitation physiotherapy plan.

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