Congenital Heart Defects and Physical Activity

Congenital Heart Defects and Physical Activity


Should my child exercise if they have a heart condition? The answer is YES!! Research has shown that routine moderate exercise can be safe and beneficial for patients with congenital heart diseases whether it is a simple or complex condition. There are certain restrictions and parameters for certain conditions, so it is important to contact your physician before beginning an exercise routine.


The best and safest types of exercise are aerobic exercise. This type of exercise is more endurance based and include activities such as walking, swimming, running, and biking. Some team sports such as basketball, tennis, and volleyball are also good types of aerobic exercise. In order to keep the activity safe, it is a good rule of thumb to increase your activity so that you are breathing fast but still able to carry on a conversation. This allows the heart to work hard and get strong, but keeps it from becoming overworked.


It is best to avoid activities that cause grunting and straining while holding their breath, such as weight lifting. When you are grunting and straining while holding your breath you are creating a quick rise in blood pressure. This causes increased strain on the heart and causes it to work harder than it should be working. It also causes increased pressure in the lungs which causes increased pressure on the chest wall. This can be harmful for patients who are post surgery due to increased pressure on the scar or surgical site. Intense physical sports such as football, hockey, and boxing should be avoided due to increased risk of injury and strain on the cardiovascular system.


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-Matthew D’Antonio, DPT, PT

-Pediatric Physical Therapist

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