Having a pacemaker or ICD doesn't mean you can't exercise. Tips to safely enjoy workouts including wearing a sports medical ID, ramping up slowly and more.

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Safely Exercise with a Pacemaker


(April 2014) Many people with pacemakers are nervous about returning to exercise or strenuous activity after they have a pacemaker or ICD implanted. But once you’ve healed from surgery (at least 12 weeks) and normalized energy levels, exercise is just as important for heart health as it was before, and you should have little to worry about. Modern pacemakers are designed to safely modulate your heart rate and can adjust for exercise.

However, there are a few things you need to know before you start trying to run marathons. Your pacemaker will help keep your heart pumping normally, but you still need to pay attention to your body. Check out these tips to make sure your pacemaker doesn’t get in the way of your daily fitness routine.

Carry Your Medical ID at All Times

You should always carry your patient ID card when you’re out and about, but carrying a card or wallet when exercising is inconvenient to say the least. Hope Paige offers a number of athletic medical id bracelets that won’t get in your way when you’re working out. Even if you have a workout buddy, it’s important to always wear a medical ID to alert medical personnel to your pacemaker.

Always Wear a Heart Monitor

Pacemakers and ICDs typically have a rate cutoff, and you want to avoid getting too close to this upper limit. A heart monitor can help you monitor your pulse and to modulate your workout accordingly. Typically, you want to maintain at least a 10 perfect margin between your exercise heart rate and the cutoff limit. If your heart rate accelerates too quickly, tone down your workout and breathe deeply to lower your heart rate to a safe level before resuming your exercise.

Ease Into Your Exercise

A safe workout should always include both a warm up and cool down period. Don’t jump right into a run and don’t sit down right away after a workout. Start and end any run with a light walk. If you’re doing strength exercises, do 5-10 light minutes on the exercise bike to cool down after your workout. But most importantly, don’t expect to be able to exercise at the same levels that you were used to before your pacemaker.

Even if you were active before your pacemaker implantation, you’re likely to see a marked decrease in your physical ability until your body recovers and adjusts to your managed heartbeat. That’s totally fine, and you will overcome it. Exercising regularly is the best way to increase your stamina and get back to your old fitness levels.

Avoid Full Contact Sports

A pacemaker won’t limit you from most forms of exercise, but you should avoid contact sports. Taking hits or falling can dislodge your pacemaker or shift the wires in your heart. Rhythmic activities like walking, running, cycling or swimming are much safer.

Don’t Push Too Hard

If you experience dizziness, chest pain or fatigue, stop exercising immediately and call your physician. And always be on guard for any shocks you may feel from your pacemaker – it can be an unfamiliar sensation for many people, so if you feel anything out of the ordinary, stop working out and get assistance.

Although there’s a lot to look out for, it’s also important to remember to have fun. Though you may have decreased fitness during your recovery, a pacemaker should never limit your love of exercise. All you need to do is take proper safety precautions, listen to your body and do the workouts that feel right for you.