Congenital Heart Defects: Exercise and Sports
Children and adults with congenital heart defects can be active and get regular exercise. Most don't have exercise restrictions. But restrictions on the intensity or type of exercise might be needed depending on the type or severity of the defect.
Being active helps keep your heart and body healthy. So even a person who has restrictions can still exercise within limits. Your doctor can help create a set of activities at a level that is safe and healthy for you or your child.1 Your doctor might also suggest target heart rate goals and limits, how long to exercise, and how often to exercise.2
Restrictions on exercise
Your doctor can tell you if you or your child should limit activity or sports participation. Limits might be based on the severity and type of heart defect.3
Most people with mild or repaired heart defects don't have exercise restrictions. They usually can participate in any type of sport or exercise.
People who have a severe defect, a cyanotic defect, heart pumping problems, or heart rhythm problems might have exercise restrictions. But they can still be active. Their doctors can help create exercise plans to stay healthy and enjoy a good quality of life.
Tests before exercise
Anyone with a heart defect should check with a doctor before starting an exercise or sports program.
Often a stress test EKG (a type of electrocardiogram) is done to find out the effect of exercise on the heart. This test is sometimes done along with a type of echocardiogram to measure how the heart responds to exercise.
Some children who have a heart defect will have an exercise stress test done by the time they are in school. As your child ages and is interested in new sports or more intense exercise, you can review the exercise plan with your child's doctor and make sure that it's still right for your child.
At your regular checkup with your doctor, review your exercise plan to make sure that it fits your life and is safe and healthy for you.
- Warnes CA, et al. (2008). ACC/AHA 2008 Guidelines for the management of adults with congenital heart disease: Executive summary: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation, 118(23): 2395–2451.
- Sable C, et al. (2011). Best practices in managing transition to adulthood for adolescents with congenital heart disease: The transition process and medical and psychosocial issues: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 123(13): 1454–1485.
- Graham TP Jr, et al. (2005). 36th Bethesda Conference: Eligibility recommendations for competitive athletes for cardiovascular abnormalities. Task Force 2: Congenital heart defects. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 45(8): 1326–1333.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||John Pope, MD - Pediatrics|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Larry A. Latson, MD - Pediatric Cardiology|
|Last Revised||October 11, 2011|
Last Revised: October 11, 2011
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