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Exercises for CHFers Exercising with heart failure
Flexibility and balance
Lifting weights
Resistance training
Endurance training
Exercise equipment
Examples of workouts
Exercise and supplements

 Types of Equipment

There are 3 kinds of exercise equipment as I see it.

Ready-to-use
such as dumbbells, which are your most valuable weightlifting tools. Also, some motorized treadmills are ready to use out of the box. If you can afford it and make the trip every day, a gym membership or YMCA membership is also ready-to-use.
Purchased equipment that requires assembly
such as weight benches, racks, cable machines, some treadmills and cycling machines. I suggest paying someone to assemble this stuff because it can take 5 to 6 hours to assemble some of it. If you don't believe me, see a diagram for one of my weight benches here or my rack here. Sporting goods stores and office supply stores usually have names of people who do equipment assembly for a living.
Homemade equipment
I have used homemade neck machines, chin-up bars, and squat racks. I still use homemade row handles, wrist straps, and neck strap. If you are handy enough to be certain it will not give out on you while you are using it, improvise wherever you can.

 Aerobics Equipment

Home equipment is our only topic, so we're really talking about treadmills and cycling machines here. Do not use step or stair climbing exercisers because they can wreck your knees over time. Swimming is rarely done at home but if you have your own pool, this is a great way to get your "cardio" workout while also gaining some strength. Don't swim unless someone else is home - if you have a heart event, you could drown!
     I don't personally like cycling machines so I don't know which kinds are best. They make my butt uncomfortable. I figure the human body is designed to walk as a natural movement, so I stick with that. If buying a cycle machine, just remember that they aren't cheap. Try some out at an expensive store to see what you like and don't like, then go buy the one you liked at a cheaper store (where they don't let you try them out first).

Treadmills are motorized or non-motorized. If you can afford it, I strongly recommend a motorized treadmill. If you are serious about using it every day, this is a very good investment in your heart health. I walk on mine 6 days a week. The price range is very wide on these now, starting at 300 dollars US or less on sale.
     The only things you need are the part you walk on and a speed, distance and time counter. The rest is unneccesary glitz to drive the price up. The tread is wider or longer on some models than others. Be sure you buy one that "fits" you and how you walk.

I recommend a cheaper model, and buy the extended warranty as long as it includes the tread and the motor. The motors are direct current, thus very expensive to replace. This makes an extended warranty a pretty good idea, at least for the second year. Make sure the warranty includes "in-home repair" for everything!
     Read your treadmill instruction manual and keep the tread aligned properly. This will make it last longer. Buy a model that folds up like ours in the photos. I think almost all models do this but I'm not sure. A treadmill in the "down" position takes up a lot of floor space.
     We have been using this treadmill for about 7 years now and have had the motor replaced once, under extended warranty. We stopped buying the extended warranty at 4 years. The little clip-on fan is great! I bought it for about 12 dollars US at a local store.

Motorized Treadmill (Jon's)
motorized treadmill motorized treadmill
motorized treadmill
 

 Resistance Training Equipment

Rubber Bands
I don't have a picture of these in action. They are like large rubber-bands that you use for the resistance against which to work muscles. As long as you use them to do exercises in reps and sets like you would use weights, they are fine. See the resistance exercise page for more.
Isometric Exercisers
Isometrics are bad for your heart if you have heart failure! However, if you find an isometric exerciser you can use for sets and reps, that's completely fine. One example of such an isometric exerciser is the Bullworker. See this page for more.
Water
If you have safe and easy access to a pool, it's a good way to build some muscle and reduce your fatigue level. See the resistance training page for more. No, you can't do it in the tub! <g>

 Weight Equipment - The Basics

You really just need a pair of dumbbell blanks (see below) and some weight plates to get started. That's how I started. After 6 months, I added a weight bench with leg extension. After one year I added a standard 6-foot barbell. After 2 years I added a rack/cable setup. I just added a 7-foot barbell. However, a plain old weight bench and some dumbbells will give outstanding results even long-term.

Dumbbells
I very strongly suggest that you buy dumbbell "blanks" as seen on this page. These are simple rods with cushioned middles and threaded ends. Large screw-on nuts hold weight plates on them. This allows you to use many different amounts of weight on one pair of dumbbells - or no weight plates at all.
     Be sure these are "standard" size - one inch diameter. I buy these at Wal-Mart for 10 to 12 dollars US per pair. The more you own, the less you have to change weight plates - you set up different pairs with the proper weight for different exercises, then only change the plates when you are ready to do that exercise heavier.
Weight plates
I buy these at Wal-Mart for about 60 cents US per pound. They come in 2-1/2, 5, 10, and 25 pound sizes. Some stores also sell 1-1/4 or even 3 pound plates.
Barbell
Usually, you buy one in a set with some weight plates and a pair of dumbbells, but you can buy them separately. A set can cost from 50 to 90 dollars US so look for a sale at a sporting goods store or buy at a discount store like Wal-mart. I wrap a piece of masking tape around the exact center of my bar so I know when my hands are the same distance from the middle.
     Most people should start with a standard (one inch diameter) steel bar, 6 or 7 feet long. If you have good hand strength, don't buy one that has threaded ends - it's great for dumbbells but it's a lot of trouble spinning the nuts on and off with barbells. Non-threaded barbells come with a pair of squeeze-clips that don't look like much but they work just fine for holding weight plates on. If your hand strength is poor, consider buying a barbell with threaded ends - clips require too much hand strength for my wife to use.
     If you are going to use a rack, you'll want to buy a 7-foot long barbell. Stick with the standard one inch diameter and your weight plates never become obsolete. I bought my 7-foot standard barbell online from www.newyorkbarbells.tv for 51 dollars US and that included shipping.
     I do not recommend Olympic bars or weights at all! They are clumsy, expensive, and unnecessary.
Weight Bench
Buy a bench with a leg extension attachment like the photos on this page. There are two kinds of weight benches. One has the leg pivot point just above bench level, while the other type has the pivot point considerably higher. Either will do. See the bottom of this page for details helping you decide which will work for you.
     Buy a bench that inclines as well as lies flat. It should have a weight rating telling you how much total weight - including you - it will safely hold both flat and when inclined. A decent bench will hold 600 pounds flat and at least 350 pounds inclined.
     A good solid bench will cost you about 100 dollars US. Be aware that weight benches require assembly! You might want to pay someone to do this for you since it can be very tough on some benches.
     Please note that if you can afford it and have room, most racks come with a weight bench included. They cost 150 to 250 dollars US. See this page. If possible, you might be better off buying a rack with weight bench now.
 Weight Equipment - Advanced

Cages
I don't recommend cages because what you buy is what you get, period. You can't really add on or change them. They are also extremely expensive compared to other types of weight equipment. A rack and cable system allows for more flexibility in the exercises you can do.
Rack and cable systems
This is what I now use. See this page.
Handles for cable rows
See this page.
Wrist straps
See this page.
Workout gloves
See this page.
Neck strap
See this page.

All information on this site is opinion only. All concepts, explanations, trials, and studies have been re-written in plain English and may contain errors. I am not a doctor. Use the reference information at the end of each article to search MedLine for more complete and accurate information. All original copyrights apply. No information on this page should be used by any person to affect their medical, physical, legal, educational, social, or psychological treatment in any way. I am not a doctor. This web site and all its pages, graphics, and content copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 Jon C.

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