Exercise and congenital heart defects

Children and adults with congenital heart defects can tolerate varying levels of exercise. Generally, exercise restrictions are based on the severity and type of heart defect.

People with mild heart defects usually can participate in any type of sport or exercise. Those who have moderate or severe defects or who have had surgery require careful evaluation by a health professional before starting an exercise or sports program. Often a stress test EKG (a type of electrocardiogram) is done to determine the effect of exercise on the heart. Many children have this test by the time they start school and become involved with physical education classes and other activities.

Most adults who have congenital heart defects are aware of their safe exercise levels and are regularly evaluated. In rare cases, however, some people are diagnosed with a defect in adolescence or early adulthood. For these people, careful monitoring, physical exams, and exercise testing may be needed to determine whether any activities should be restricted.

Children and adults who have cyanotic heart defects and aortic valve stenosis may have exercise restrictions throughout their lives.

Last Updated: October 12, 2009

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