The HCMA’s Focus for June is Staying Fit With HCM! 

There needs to be more clarity about exercise for HCM patients. Some doctors say, “don’t do anything physical,” and others say, “do whatever you want.” We can likely agree on one thing – they’re both wrong, and the best advice is somewhere in the middle.

Experts agree that exercise is healthy for people with HCM. Depending on symptoms, most people with HCM can safely do light exercise like walking. 

Those with HCM who have no symptoms may be able to exercise without restrictions.

Most people with symptomatic HCM aren’t advised to do heavy exercise. It’s best to avoid intense activity that involves bursts of sprinting, heavy weightlifting, or contact sports like football. 

  • Research indicates that intense physical activity predisposes susceptible people with HCM to arrhythmias and possibly sudden death.
  • The LIVE-HCM study results found that for most with HCM self-reporting for the study, vigorous exercise did not raise the risk of serious cardiovascular events such as dangerous arrhythmia, appropriate ICD shock, or sudden cardiac arrest.
  • More research into this topic is ongoing, so we will know more soon.

Fast Facts About Exercising When You Have HCM:

  • For most patients, HCM doesn’t interfere too much with their lifestyle.
  • HCM patients should not lead a sedentary lifestyle.
    • Walking, bicycling, lap swimming, and similar activities are generally safe forms of exercise. If swimming, be sure there is a lifeguard or have a buddy.
  • Those with symptoms should not overexert themselves.
    • Listen to your body and slow down or stop if your symptoms increase. 
  • When exercising, avoid being in extreme temperatures and stay hydrated.
  • If you want to join a gym, be familiar with the safety laws in your state.
    • Are gyms required to have automated external defibrillators (AEDs)?
  • Work with your HCM specialist to find the best activity level for you. 

An HCM specialist and team created a helpful approach to fitness at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre in Toronto, Canada. This program has three fitness levels. Their website shows you how to maintain heart health through videos, medical information, and a proven exercise program.