How to exercise after a heart bypass

Updated April 17, 2017

Coronary bypass surgery refers to a procedure used to treat blocked arteries, sometimes called coronary artery disease or coronary atherosclerosis. During the procedure, a surgeon takes a healthy blood vessel from your chest, arm, leg or abdomen and attaches it to other arteries in your heart, improving blood flow. Coronary bypass surgery reduces your risk of a heart attack and reduces some symptoms, but it's not a permanent cure. Exercising is essential to stay healthy after a coronary bypass surgery.

Talk to your doctor about how long you have to wait after surgery before beginning an exercise program. In addition, ask whether certain activities are unsafe.

Walk a little every day. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, and ask a family member or friend to accompany you the first few times. Make sure that you stay close to home, especially on your first few walks. For example, walking three laps around your block is safer than walking in a larger loop. Don't worry about your speed. Instead, walk at a comfortable, steady pace.

Increase the distance of your walks as time passes. Try to walk for at least 30 minutes a day, at least five times a week. Most coronary bypass patients can walk one to one and a half miles daily a month after their surgery, according to the Columbia University Medical Center.

Talk to your doctor if you want to add more strenuous exercises, such as swimming, golfing or weightlifting to your exercise routine. These exercises will also improve your heart health, but you may have to wait until your incision has completely healed.


If it's too hot or cold outside, walk at an indoor shopping mall instead. Eating a healthy diet and quitting smoking will also help you stay healthy after bypass surgery.


Stop immediately if you feel dizzy, short of breath or very tired. Walk less the next day. If you have chest pain, nausea, vomiting or headache, seek immediate medical attention.

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About the Author

Rebekah Richards is a professional writer with work published in the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "Brandeis University Law Journal" and online at She graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University with bachelor's degrees in creative writing, English/American literature and international studies. Richards earned a master's degree at Carnegie Mellon University.