Tips for Safe Exercise After Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery

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What is Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery?

Coronary artery bypass surgery is a common procedure for reestablishing blood flow to heart muscle.  But before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s important to know that coronary artery disease is merely a fancy term for clogged plumbing in the arteries that deliver blood to your heart muscle (not to be confused with heart valve problems).

It’s possible to have up to a 75% blockage without any symptoms. Usually anything higher than this will elicit symptoms (i.e., chest pain or tightness, shortness of breath) and may potentially require medical intervention to open the artery and reestablish blood flow.

Quick Video About Bypass Surgery

If you’ve not yet had your operation and are curious to get a quick video tutorial about bypass surgery, this will fill you in on all the main elements of the procedure:

Common Treatments for Coronary Artery Disease

The two most common procedures are:

  • Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA), also referred to as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) in some countries; and
  • Coronary artery bypass grafting (or CABG for short)

PTCA For Clogged Cardiac Plumbing

PTCA entails inserting a catheter through the femoral artery in your groin, threading it up to the heart into the clogged coronary artery, and inflating a balloon to press the plaque up against the vessel wall to reestablish blood flow.It is often accompanied by placement of a supportive wire mesh called a stent. This option is usually suitable for individuals with mild arterial plaque in one or two vessels.

Related Articles

CABG for Coronary Artery Disease

If multiple vessels are blocked or the interventional cardiologist deems angioplasty too risky, then coronary artery bypass grafting may be required.

Coronary artery bypass surgery is an open-heart surgical procedure performed when the disease is too diffuse and widespread to accommodate a simple angioplasty procedure.

This operation generally entails the surgical removal of the saphenous vein from your leg and segments of it are then sewn from the aorta of your heart to the opposite side of the blocked arteries, effectively creating a bridge over the plaque.

In some instances, the internal mammary artery which feeds blood to the chest wall is detached and redirected to the other side of the blockage. Coronary artery bypass surgery is merely a more advanced plumbing job than its comparatively simpler angioplasty/stent cousin.

Newer technologies and surgical techniques are being developed which minimize the trauma to the body. Ask your surgeon which options are best for you.

Recovery Time After Bypass Surgery

As with heart valve surgery, you can expect at least six to eight weeks of recovery time after coronary artery bypass surgery. While rest is important for healing, so is regular physical activity.

Regular aerobic exercise helps offset the deleterious effects of surgery and bed rest, such as muscle atrophy, muscle and joint stiffness, and balance and coordination.

Early mobilization should begin about one to two days after surgery including several short duration walks per day around the nurse’s station.

Most coronary artery bypass patients return home after a four to six day hospitalisation.

Resuming activities after bypass surgery

Returning to your activities of daily living (ADLs) can be a challenge upon release from the hospital. It’s normal to feel tired and exhausted as if you were run over by a bus. But rest assured this is expected and you will progressively regain your energy over the next couple months.

Before you get stuck into any heavy structured exercise, it’s important to work through your daily tasks as safely as possible to minimise any complications.


Overhead lifting

Overhead lifting after surgery can be a challenge. Your sternum is going to be sore and tender, so be careful when lifting your arms to shoulder height and above. You can place dishes in the cupboard or brush your teeth, but try to minimise how long your arms are in the elevated position. Avoid any heavy overhead lifting until you are cleared to do so by your doctor.

Climbing stairs and steps

Climbing stairs and steps after bypass surgery can be tiring, so you should assume a graduated approach. You may want to start with climbing one flight of stairs and see how you feel. If you become short of breath, then you should stop and rest. As you return to health and feel stronger, you can gradually increase the number of stairs and steps you climb, while reducing the number of rests you take.

Lifting during household chores

You can perform most domestic tasks after your surgery, but try not to lift much more than 2 to 4.5 kg (5 to 10 lbs)  during the first several weeks after discharge. You can prepare meals, wash cloths and dishes, do light cleaning, and go shopping.  Once you’ve received clearance from your doctor, you will be able to perform more heavy pushing and pulling activities that load the sternum.

Sex after bypass surgery

One of the main concerns with sex after surgery is pressure on the sternum. You may need to experiment with different positions in order to find the one that least aggravates your incision site. You should speak with your doctor to discuss when is the best time to return to sex after your operation (usually a few weeks).

Return to driving

You can usually return to driving about a month after your surgery. You may feel groggy and tired due to the influence of your medications so it may not be advisable from a safety standpoint. Moreover, your sternum is going to be sore and turning the steering wheel might aggravate it.  There is nothing wrong with being a passenger, but you might want to try putting a soft pillow or cushion between the seatbelt and your chest. You might also opt to sit in the back seat since an airbag deployed during an accident could cause damage to your already weakened sternum.


Travel is fun but after bypass surgery it can be downright exhausting. Speak to your doctor about your impending trip and if it’s appropriate for you to take the trip or wait a bit longer. It is advisable to be geographically close to your doctor should you have any complications. Bottom line: you might need to hold off on your trip until you are deemed medically stable and feeling well enough to travel.

Going back to work

Going back to work can be both physically and mentally exhausting. It may take one to two months before you are fully able to engage in your regular duties. If you are performing a physical job that requires heavy lifting, you should speak with your doctor to determine the best time to return to work. If you work in an office setting, then it may be appropriate to return sooner.  No matter what your job, it may be advisable to start with a half-day and gradually work up to a full shift.

Aerobic Activity Guidelines Post-Surgery

Obtain your surgeon or cardiologist’s approval before engaging in any vigorous exercise.

Low level walking during recovery is usually prescribed, but previously active individuals tend to overdo it with too much too soon.  Perform aerobic exercises that activate the large muscles of the lower body (i.e., legs and hips), are rhythmic in nature, and can be done continuously for an extended period of time.

Be sure to choose exercises you enjoy. You’re much more likely to stick with your program if it’s fun.

It is normal to feel quite tired the first few weeks after surgery, but this will go away in time—give yourself permission to be human.

Start off with multiple short-duration (i.e. three to five minutes) exercise sessions per day, gradually working up to longer durations fewer times per day.

Set a target of walking 45 to 60 minutes non-stop at a comfortable pace as you progress through the recovery period.

Use the following generic graduated exercise plan as a guide.  Notice the objective is to “ween” yourself from the shorter exercise bouts more times per day to the longer, continuous bouts less times per day.

exercise regimen cabg coronary artery bypass surgery

Exercise at least three days per week and as many as seven. Three days in the beginning should be more than enough.

Add extra days when you can comfortably perform three days without any ill effects or undue residual fatigue.

Because medications such as beta-blockers blunt your heart rate response to exercise, your pulse may not be considered an accurate marker of your exercise intensity.

In this case, focus on a moderate to somewhat hard pace where you’re breathing just hard enough to perform the activity and carry on a conversation with an exercise partner. Exercise physiologists call this the talk test.

Aerobic Exercise Caution

  • Be sure to provide yourself with a 5 to 10 minute warm up and cool down phase before and after each session. It will help reduce your risk of injury or other post-surgery complications.
  • While in the early recovery phase, avoid overexerting yourself with strenuous/vigorous exercise (unless advised to do so by your cardiologist or surgeon). This can cause a sharp spike in your heart rate and blood pressure which might aggravate the bypass grafts.  Use the ol’ KISS acronym:  Keep It Slow and Steady.
  • Walk or cycle on level surfaces to establish your fitness foundation. You’ll be able to handle the hills in due time. If you find yourself huffing and puffing, that should be an indicator to ease up on the accelerator!
  • Limit your exposure to environmental stressors such as extreme cold, heat, or strong winds. Any of these can make your usual exercise pace seem much more difficult.
  • Pay attention to any signs or symptoms associated with exercise. If you experience chest pain or discomfort, slow down or stop exercising. If it does not resolve by itself or continues to get worse during rest, seek emergency medical attention.

Can I Go to the Gym After Bypass Surgery?

If exercising at a gym, ask the staff what credentials or experience they have in working with heart patients. They should understand your condition as well as any medications you may be taking. They should also have an emergency response protocol in place (i.e. dial 911 (000, 111 in some countries), on-site defibrillator, etc).

Strength Training Guidelines Post-Surgery

While it may seem counter-intuitive to lift weights after bypass surgery, quite the opposite is true. If judiciously applied, resistance training can hasten your healing and recovery and help you get back to your regular way of life quickly and efficiently.

However, you shouldn’t lift much more than four to five kilos (10 pounds) during the first 4 to 6 weeks of recovery, or until clearance by your surgeon. After that, keep your progression slow to avoid any debilitating muscle soreness.

Always perform resistance movements with proper form and breathing technique. Always remember to exhale on the exertion (lifting) phase. As a rule, never hold your breath or strain during a lift. You may want to consult a qualified fitness professional for additional guidance on form and technique.

For general conditioning, work all major muscle groups from largest to smallest. You don’t want to pre-fatigue your small muscles first since they work as assisting muscles during larger movements.

For example, your triceps are assisting muscles during the chest press. If you work your triceps first, they’ll be too fatigued to assist during the chest exercise.

Begin with short duration sessions as this will allow your body to safely adapt. Start off with 15 to 20 minute sessions and work up from there. Marathon training sessions may leave you tired and sore and potentially discourage you from continuing with your regimen.

Use light resistance in the beginning. It is far better to use light weights and learn proper form up front than start off with heavy weights and sloppy form.

Begin with a weight that allows you to perform 10 to 15 repetitions. When you can do 15 without any undue fatigue, increase the weight by 3 to 5 percent.

Don’t overdo it. Perform resistance training two to three times per week. The in-between days are for proper recovery and recuperation.  After you receive final clearance from your surgeon and/or cardiologist, then you may progress to heavier weights and more sets and repetitions.

Strength Training Caution

  • As with aerobic training, obtain physician clearance before starting any strength training program.
  • Numbness in the chest area is normal. The surgery entails cutting nerves in your chest but the feeling usually returns within one year.
  • If signs or symptoms occur during resistance training, stop training immediately. If symptoms do not improve, or if they worsen during rest, seek immediate medical attention.

Take Home Message

While coronary artery bypass surgery can be very hard on the body, you will be served far better by engaging in regular physical activity during the recovery period.

The immediate post-surgery phase is the most difficult but after you break through the first two to three weeks, you’ll be amazed at how well you feel. The previously blocked arteries that were causing you shortness of breath and chest pain will no longer be limiting factors in your ability to carry out your daily tasks.

Most people who’ve had bypass surgery go on to live very fruitful and active lives, sometimes even better than before! But be forewarned, surgery is not a cure for artery disease.

If you previously lived an unhealthy lifestyle and return to your old ways, there is the possibility that your arteries will block up again, potentially leaving you in line for a follow-up coronary artery bypass procedure. In short, adopt healthy lifestyle changes and make it a part of your daily routine!

About Author

Dr Bill Sukala is a Sydney-based clinical exercise physiologist, health writer, speaker, and media health expert. He has published health articles in major publications around the world and has given invited lectures across five continents. Click here for more information or follow Bill on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and


  1. Jeetender Prashad on


    I had CABG 4 years back and now iam doing bench press with weights of 25 KGS a side 3 sets with 5 reps thrice a week, is it harmful in long run. At present I have no strain or fatigue.

    Please guide.

    Best Regards

    • Bill Sukala, PhD on

      Hi Jeetender,
      Thanks for writing. If you’re four years out from your surgery and you’ve not had any adverse effects from your current regimen, than I can’t see any reason it would cause you long-term harm. In cardiac rehab, I frequently had our post CABG patients lifting weights. As long as you’re getting the all clear from your cardiologist, then you should be ok.


  2. I had CABG 6 years back , can i do skipping excercise , my doctor advised not to do , but i am doing 10 steps per day , i step is equal to 150Jumps within 20 minutes i am completing the 10 steps , i am comfortable , can i continue, do you recommened any more excercise

    • Bill Sukala, PhD on

      Hi there,
      Have you done any cardiac rehabilitation sessions? It would be very helpful for you to get professional guidance under an exercise physiologist to help you find the exercises that are right for you. Unfortunately, I cannot legally recommend specific exercises for you without being fully aware of your medical/surgical history. I would suggest you speak with your cardiologist and get a referral to either an exercise physiologist or physical therapist in your area. They would be best suited to evaluate your stepping exercise relative to your exercise capacity. Hope this helps:)

  3. I had 5x CABG 14 weeks ago. I am in a cardio rehab program with traditional treadmill, bikes etc, and I am doing well. I can walk 1.5 miles in less than 30 minutes, and I feel great. I am enormously grateful to my cardiologist and surgeons for taking the CABG route; but problem is that my cardiologist does not believe in resistance training and has forbidden it. What can I do to persuade him? The cardio rehab people think I can do it, but of course they won’t go against a Dr.’s advice (and I wouldn’t ask them to). What course of action do you suggest. And some gentle lawn mowing with my machine is a lot more intense than slinging some 15lb barbells.

    • Bill Sukala, PhD on

      Hi Andrew,
      Thank you for your comment. There is increasingly more information in the medical literature which shows that people who’ve had cardiac problems (and surgery) can safely perform resistance training. The main deciding factor is your risk stratification. Has your doctor told you you’re low, moderate, or high risk? You mention you’ve had CABGx5, but did not mention if you’ve had a heart attack as well. If not, then it’s safe to say you had a “plumbing problem” rather than a “heart problem.” In other words, a heart attack can sometimes result in damage to the heart muscle which can compromise your body’s ability to adapt to acute exercise (i.e. presence of wall motion abnormalities, possible arrythmias, etc). I should also mention that if you’re able to tolerate moderate to higher intensities on the treadmill without any ectopy on the ECG, then this is a favorable sign that you could likely handle some resistance exercise without any adverse events. In all fairness, bad things can happen to good people even if you do everything right, but based on my experience in cardiac rehab the likelihood of adverse events is reduced in those who can handle moderate to high intensity aerobic exercise.

      I would suggest having a look at this article from Circulation which discusses resistance exercise for cardiac patients: You should be able to download the PDF for free.

      I’d suggest discussing this with your cardiologist and cardiac rehabilitation team. I cannot reliably give you any specific advise since I’m not completely familiar with your medical history, but it is worth exploring provided you are low risk and able to handle a reasonably high intensity during aerobic exercise. Hope this helps.

      Yours in health,
      Dr. Bill

  4. I had CABGx2 12 weeks back and after 40 days joined duty.My company needs cardio tests so at 50th day i did stress test (thread mill test) i did for 9 mins and my heart rate reached around 158 so doctor stoped.My heart condition is normal.They said i can do normal excercise.Now iam going for swiming and daily i walk 3 to 4 km on thread mill at a speed 5.7km/hr .No discomfort i felt.Every day i climb nearly 50 steps (third floor) and drive my car.My eco report was perfect no damage to heart.My question is 3 to 4 km every day at 5.7km speed is enough or should i increase the speed??At this speed my heart rate is 130 as my age is 44 .

    • Bill Sukala, PhD on

      Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you had a relatively routine surgery and normal recovery. The fact that you have no damage to your heart muscle is a good thing. It just means you had a “plumbing problem.” If you are currently able to perform up to 4km each day at 5.7 km/h and are tolerating this well (no signs or symptoms), then it may be feasible to try a bit more speed. Try increasing your speed in 0.2 km/h increments and see how you tolerate this. Also, the fact that you are quite young works in your favor, as you are likely well conditioned in your periphery (legs) which will also decrease demands on the heart. Keep up the good work and thanks again for your comment.

  5. I had quadruple bypass four months ago. In cardiac rehab, my weights were gradually increased. Is there a limit to how much I can ultimately work up to? Or can I work out the way I did ten years ago?

    • Bill Sukala, PhD on

      Thanks for your comment Randy. Without knowing the details of your medical history, I can’t give you specific advice. However, I have seen some impressive improvements after CABG surgery. Your best bet is to consult your cardiac rehab exercise physiologist and get specific home exercise guidelines for your situation. If you progress through your weight regimen slowly to allow proper adaptations, then I’m sure you’ll be fine. Keep us posted on how you get along with everything. Cheers

  6. Larry Chmiel on

    Dr. Sukala,
    In June of 2008, I had open heart surgery – triple by-pass.
    In December of 2008, a Pacemaker/Defibrillator was implanted in my upper left side of my chest.
    Before the surgery, I did lift weights to keep in shape and would like to go back to some weight lifting as my muscles became weak since my surgery.
    I get different messages from my doctors, cardiologist, family, etc. regarding weight training.
    Some tell me not to do Bench Presses, Overhead Presses, or Chin Ups because of the stretching and what it may do to the leads from the P/D to the heart.
    My cardiologist tells me to weight train and don’t worry about the leads and do cardio to help with weight loss. I am 6’2″ at 260 pounds.
    What should be the restrictions when one has an implanted P/D?
    Thank You,

    • Bill Sukala, PhD on

      Hi Larry, Thanks for your comment. I can certainly understand your frustration with getting conflicting messages. In my experience, I’m less concerned about individuals with a pacemaker/defibrillator. Provided the settings can detect the difference between a malignant arrhythmia and a normal rise in heart rate with exercise, I can’t see this being a major cause for concern. Without my being familiar with your specific medical history, I am unable to give specific advice. But your cardiologist did give you the green light so that is a good sign. I would say that if you’re doing reasonably controlled movements and nothing too aggressive or jerky, it’s unlikely that you’re going to cause any damage to your ICD. I think with bench press, overheads, and chin-ups, you should be ok, but it would also be wise to start out with low resistance and see if you experience any discomfort or get the feeling that it might cause problems with your ICD (i.e., bar touching the device). I would suggest making sure you know the heart rate limits for your device and try to work within them to minimize any chance of getting an unnecessary shock. Regarding weight loss, I agree it would be wise to include cardio. Try to work on increasing your duration (time during exercise) to maximize your calorie burn. Over time, work up on the intensity side of things to further enhance your energy expenditure. Obviously diet is a part of it as well, so if you can consult a dietitian and get some specific guidance for your situation, that would also be a step in the right direction. You may also find that with weight loss, the reduced overall gravitational load on your body may reduce stress on the heart and, consequently, the risk of arrhythmias. Every little bit helps, so work on developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle! Cheers, Bill

  7. My father have undergone 5X CABG, in Dec’2011. He is right now 66 years old. We take a lot of care for his food nad his walks. He is managing well. Hence, we decided to go for a hill station nearby with prior consent from our cardiologist. But there he had to walk up and down the stairs several gaps. He tried his level best not to exert. But after returning back, he seems to be quite lethargic. He doesnot complain but I can make out the difference. What could be the reason? What do you suggest me to to do? Can we take him for further trips or CABG patients should be confined to one place?

    • Bill Sukala, PhD on

      Hi Nupur,
      Thank you for your post. I am unable to provide advice for specific conditions because I am not familiar with your father’s complete medical history. However, it would be wise to discuss this fatigue with your father’s cardiologist. It is not uncommon to be quite tired and lethargic after open heart surgery, but at this point, it is about 7 months post-op. While light to moderate exercise is generally well-tolerated in most people after surgery, any ongoing undue fatigue could possibly be related to other underlying medical issues. I would strongly suggest that you contact his cardiologist and explore your options. IF there is a cardiac rehabilitation program with exercise physiologists, you should discuss what exercise options might work for him. Sorry I cannot provide specifics (legally) but hopefully you get some resolve in all this. Kind regards

      • Is it safe to ride a zero turn lawnmower cutting grass for two to five hours on a bumpy terrain after 5x bypass surgery? Also had ablation on heart at same time of bypass.

  8. Hi,

    I’m 26 years old and had a bypass surgery at the age of 6 years. I do not get any difficulty in my doing daily routine but I do not feel a body growth like as a 26 years old guy should have. So I decided to join a Gym. will it be okay to join a Gym for me. Please advise..


  9. I have had an operation for aortic valve replacement, got a mechanical valve now. I have already completed a year, is it ok if i exercise on the tread mill at speed of 6

    • Bill Sukala, PhD on

      Hi Milton,
      You will need to discuss this with your doctor, as I cannot give specific advice to anyone without being familiar with your medical history. I would suggest meeting with an exercise physiologist in your area that has experience working with people after heart surgeries. However, I will say I have worked with a lot of valve replacement patients who were able to tolerate reasonably high workloads. Best wishes.

  10. Firstly thanks for the opportunity to ask a question. I had 99% blockage in 3 places in my Lad 6 months ago. It was a complete surprise as I had been training hard only the night before albeit with some pain. I had 3 stents and no need for cabg as the blockage was soft. Fortunately, there was no damage to my heart. I had a heart ct scan 18 months before the blockage that showed it was 100% clear. Firstly, can the blockage happen so quickly assuming the prior scan was accurate? I have psoriatic arthritis during the last 3 years (had no major illness before it) and also on prednisone to manage it. There is a view that either the arthritis and/or the steroids caused the blockage (as I have no apparent predisposition for heart problems – ie no high bp, no diabetes, never smoked, no majorly overweight, no family history etc). Have u witnessed this occurring in others in similar conditions ie due to arthritis so quickly?

    And I had been back at the gym about 6 months before I had pain and the heart opp and then went back albeit slowly a week after the opp and have now exceeded even my fitness both cardio (can u for 90 minutes at speeds of up to 9m/hr during intervals) and heavy weights – than was able to do when I was young (now 44). I did a stress test at week 7 post opp for 25+ minutes with max heart of 185 with no pain. My cardiologist said go for it with no limits on future cardio and weights. Do u have the same view? Any another words of advice? Thanks

    • Bill Sukala, PhD on

      Hi Glen, Thanks for your comment. While I can’t legally give specific advice without knowing your medical history, if you tolerated a reasonably high intensity on your treadmill test and you have physician approval, then you will likely be able to tolerate most submaximal workloads during your regular exercise sessions. Hope this helps. Best wishes.

      • thanks for your reply. also re: Have u witnessed this occurring in others in similar conditions ie due to arthritis so quickly?

        • Bill Sukala, PhD on

          Hi Glen,
          I cannot say I’ve seen this as a direct cause and effect situation. Human health is affected by so many variables that each person needs to be evaluated as an individual with all genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors taken into consideration. However, there may be some link between immunosuppression therapy and coronary artery disease, but it may be dose-dependent. I would suggest speaking to your cardiologist for more specific information on your medications and your situation. Best wishes

  11. Hi Dr Bill, thanks to your article which is useful to me although I’ve gone through my CABGx3 for 4 months by now.

    Still experiencing soreness on the chest as 1 of the Chest Vein was use for the Bypass.

    Nevertheless, many good tips for me to remember on my route to recovery.

    William Siong

  12. Dr. Sukala,
    First of all thank you for responging to my inquiry regarding weight training with a pacemaker/defribulaor.
    Why do you recommend working up to 60 minutes a day for aerobic training. Is this the length of time required to make the heart stronger? Or is this for weight loss?
    Thank you,

    • Hi Larry,
      The particular duration of exercise is going to vary from person to person depending on individual fitness levels, impact of medications, etc. Sixty minutes is adequate time to both strengthen the heart and provide weight loss benefits (which will also help lighten the load on the ticker). Irrespective of what recommendations you read, it still depends on you. Adjust your workout variables accordingly based on how often you work out (frequency), how hard (intensity), how long (duration), and what kinds of exercise you do (type). Hope this helps.

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    • Dr Bill Sukala on

      Hi Akila,
      Please check about midway down the article. There is a basic exercise schedule which you can adapt to fit your needs. Once you’re past the initial healing and have clearance from your doctor, and provided you don’t have any ongoing complications, you should be able to work up to an hour or more of walking on most or all days of the week.

  14. Air Commodore Dr HSR Arora on

    Dear Dr Bill Sukala,
    Interesting & informative reading.I run a Cardio-Pulmonary Rehabilitation Centre with Apollo Life Centre
    located with Apollo Hospital Jubilee Hills Film Nagar Hyderabad Telangana India.The Centre has team constituting Medical,Physiotherapist/Dietician/Psychologist/Yoga Expert for holistic condition of Heart Cases.We start for cardiac cases 6-7 day post surgery in open heart surgery,2-3 day for all post angioplasty -stents, acute heart attacks.2- 3 day after Ac CHF stabilised. 2 day after ICD,Pace Maker.All kinds of Chronic Pulmonary cases.We work with state of the art of Technology i.e. Telemetry Monitoring , Medical TM,Top X, Ergo cycle, Incentive Spiro., Static Ex.We also undertake conditioning of Diabetes,HTN, Cancers,People on Dialysis,Depression ,Post Stroke,Obesity,Metabolic Syndrome, Geriatric Care, ANC,Meno & Andropause cases. Condition people for adventure activity.
    This is the only such facility which work on evidence based internationally acclaimed protocol. Ensures quality & safety of patients.
    Kindly do visit.

  15. Weight lifting after LAD stent

    I had 1 medicated stent placed in my LAD a couple of weeks ago (90% blockage). I didn’t have a heart attack, I just felt sharp shooting pain up into my the back of my neck with some pain upon breathing in after breakfast on a non workout day). This is what sent me in to the ER prior to my intervention. No other blockages and my weight, bloodwork and blood pressure are all normal (this is most likely a family history condition and/or stress). I am 39 years old. I have been an avid weight lifter for the past 2-3 years and am eager to get back to it. I don’t do heavy squats or heavy deadlifts just some basic upper, arm, shoulder, and leg work (a little over body weight… 160 pounds or 80-90 pounds per arm). In your experience, are there any concerns and/or suggestions in going back to the gym. Obviously I know I should start slow and listen to my body and of course get clearance from my Doctor. I am just looking for more information as there is little available.

    Thanks so much for your time

    • Dr Bill Sukala on

      Hi Jason
      Thank you very much for your comment. You have a number of things going in your favour. First off, you are still young and your blood work, blood pressure, and body weight are all within normal limits (as you mention). You are also a pretty active guy, so presumably you already have some level of physical conditioning. It’s much easier for active people to get back into their routine than someone who is exercising for the first time after 30+ years of inactivity.

      I think the biggest thing you need to pay attention to at this point is that you are still pretty fresh in recovery. As a general rule, I’d suggest to give it at least a good four (4) weeks post stent before you consider doing anything more strenuous. You must remember that, even if you feel great, there IS still healing happening on the inside (even if you can’t feel it). That stent will take a little time to settle in so you want to be sure you’re not doing anything excessively strenuous which might cause a sharp rise in blood pressure and heart rate.

      Once you’re about 4 weeks post op, you should get back in to see your cardiologist for a check up and, as you’re aware, get his/her permission to get back into your routine. Clearly I cannot give you any specific advice since I know nothing about the details of your condition. If you have a cardiac rehab at your hospital, perhaps they can put you on a telemetry monitor while you get back into your routine. The sessions might be covered by your insurance depending on your level of coverage.

      Bottom line: make sure you’ve given yourself sufficient time to heal (at least 4 weeks). Get your doc’s approval to start exercising. And, if feasible, do at least six (6) cardiac rehab sessions supervised by cardiac nurses and exercise physiologists to see how your heart is looking on the monitor. If you go six sessions and your heart looks nice and stable with no arrhythmias and drastically high spikes in heart rate and blood pressure, then you could say with reasonable confidence you’ll be fine. Hope this helps.


  16. Hello Dr Sukala
    I had a angioplasty 6 yrs back for a RCA block. Didnt have an MI. 10 days back i underwent a CABG FOR A 3 blocks. Im 49 yrs old now. Blood parameters normal. LV function normal, but strong family history
    I used to lift weights and take supplements like Whey Protien and BCAA.
    Could that have been responsible for such a early block. And can i get back to lifting wts and taking supplements

    • Dr Bill Sukala on

      Hi Sudarshan,
      I can’t say for sure that whey protein and BCAAs were responsible for your blocked arteries since coronary artery disease can have multiple causes. If you have a strong family history of heart disease then that would likely play a greater role than dietary supplements. If you’re only 10 days out of a CABG x 3 then you’re probably going to want to wait at least two to three months before you’re doing any strenuous exercise. Your best bet is to speak to your cardiologist and/or surgeon to see what they recommend in your case. Everyone is different and so I cannot give any specific exercise recommendations to anyone over the internet, particularly without knowing your full medical history. Kind regards

  17. Thank you for the response. One last question . We r booked to travel to Spain for a holiday ( not hectic) 6 weeks from today . That’s about 7-8 weeks from the CABG.
    Do u allow your patients to holiday and if so when

    • Dr Bill Sukala on

      Hi Sudarshan, You would need to discuss your travel plans with your cardiologist and get his/her approval. However, in my experience, depending on the patient’s individual condition, I have seen cardiologists grant permission for travel. Please remember I am an exercise physiologist and not a cardiologist so neither I, nor any other health professional, should be giving you specific health advice over the internet. As I said, best to discuss your particular circumstances with your cardiologist. Kind regards

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  22. Ava Анастасия James on

    I had quadruple bypass on April 22, 2013 and now I am going to run the Victoria Marathon. I am making sure to take my Blood thinner (probably an extra dose if there is a possibility of being a little dehydrated), and anti-cholesterol. I am doing the over 5:30:00 and making sure I am staying well hydrated as that may have contributed to the problem that created having to have quadruple bypass. My doctor said it was O’Kay to run the Marathon, but one more question I didn’t ask him was “Could a short period of Dehydration caused by running long distance be a danger factor to create the same problem again?”. Maybe some of you on this list may know the answer to this complex question, as that is really only a short period of dehydration.

    • Thank you for your comment. Without knowing anything about your medical history, I cannot give any specific recommendations. If you had a quadruple bypass, then you likely had multiple lesions in a few arteries which made it too complicated to put stents in all of the affected arteries.

      Becoming dehydrated could plausibly make your blood more viscous due to a lower blood volume, but I can’t say this would necessarily cause a blocked artery. Plus the fact that you are taking blood thinners (and probably other meds for your HR and BP) will help keep things under control. Whether or not you had heart problems or the surgery, if you’re running a marathon, it is in your best interest to remain well-hydrated throughout the race.

      If you need a more detailed consultation, I am now providing these via my website at I would need more comprehensive information from you which would include your medical history, surgical reports, and discharge summary.

      Best of luck in the marathon! Let me know how you go with this! Kind regards, Bill

  23. Hi, I’m Peter, I had a Ross Procedure – open heart surgery – done about 8 years ago. I’m 46 now, I’m fit, run the beach in Coogee, do body weight exercizes and swim lots.

    I’ve always wanted to know: Can I do pull ups and chin ups, or would that freak my sternum out too much.

    I’d love to take my body weight exercises to the next level, and do that, but I wonder if it’s safe for the little wires still stringing my Sternum together.

    I would love a straight answer, man, I’ve been searching google for ages trying to get a definitive answer.



    • G’day Pete,
      So you’re in Coogee eh? We’re neighbours then! Strictly speaking about your sternum, if your surgery was 8 years ago, the sternum should be well healed and stable now. In my experience, most patients I work with that have had any open heart procedure (and notwithstanding any complications) tend to resume most activities that stress the sternum within a year. Without knowing all the specifics of your medical history, provided it was that long ago, you had no complications, and you’re as active as you are, then you might try gently easing into more strenuous exercises. If you tolerate that well, then gradually bump up the intensity a bit. If we’re talking about pull ups, then perhaps you might try a weight-assisted pull up so you’re not taking on your body’s full gravitational load, then progress in a safe and systematic way. I would also suggest speaking to your cardiologist or practice nurse about your particular situation and see if they have any specific cautions for you. You sound like a very fit guy so that will lend support to your case. Hope this helps.


  24. doctor my name is jose who lives in dallas,tx.i have a question about lifting the weight.i did my cabg 7 months ago.i have lot of lifting in my work site,which is less than 25 kg.frequently i have to do 8 hrs a day ,40 hrs a doing ,is there any problem to do that?please advise.

    • Hi Jose,
      Thank you for your comment. If you’re 7 months post-op then, assuming you’ve had a normal recovery with no complications or other special considerations (i.e. other health issues), then you should be able to resume most of your previous activities by now. HOWEVER, having said that, ultimately the final green light must be given by your doctor. A lot of people come to these articles looking for clearance, but as I’m sure you can appreciate, I cannot give specific advice over the internet without actually knowing your entire medical history. Hope this helps. Kind regards, Bill

  25. Hi there,
    My father had a heart bypass of 3 arteries in October 2015 (silent attack, no chest pain). One graft was taken from chest itself. He is healing well but he is still feeling wound like pain in the chest area while touching. During our 1 month checkup post-operation, his X-ray and blood tests were normal, but what could be the reason for wound like pain and tightness?
    He has started walking a lot and is on healthy diet. He hasn’t started lifting any weights though. When can he drive the Two Wheeler (scooter) again?
    He is 67 years old.
    How much weight he can lift and would driving a scooter cause any harm?
    Your response would be much appreciated.

    • Hi Rajni, Thank you for your comment. It’s difficult to say exactly why your father is still experiencing pain in the chest, but I would encourage you to discuss this with the cardiologist. Remember that any open heart surgery procedure is a trauma on the body and it does take time to get back to normal and for odd pains to go away. It could be something related to a damaged or pinched nerve. The sternum itself will take significantly longer to heal up so your father will have to be patient in this regard. As for when he can drive the two-wheeler again, this will be up to his cardiologist to give him approval. Generally the recommendations for lifting weight are to not lift much over 5kg during the recovery period and minimising overhead lifting. In my experience, most people tend to feel reasonably well after 4 to 6 months of recovery, but this will vary from person to person. As I’m sure you can understand, I cannot provide any specific medical advice on my website, but I think your father should discuss his concerns with his cardiologist to get answers related to his specific condition. Hope this helps. Kind regards, Bill

  26. Hello Doc, my name is Thore and is from Norway . Had a quadruple bypass for exactly 2 years ago due to serious plumbing problems. I am now 51 yrs. Changed lifestyle totally , extremely fit. Weightlifting , 4 x 4 on treadmill 3 times a week with 15 ° uphill running. My resting puls is 38. Only one thing really bugs me, confuses me , and lies as a big black cloud over my head (existense). I sometimes comes across experts saying that vein grafts has a “sell by date,” only lasts for 7 to 10 years. My heart doc just says forget it, just keep on running up the hills and continue the vegetarian lifestyle and you’ll be fine. But I just cant stop thinking of this. and i dont dare go on the Google :) do you have any knowledge on this ?

    Best regards

    Thore Nyborg

    • Dear Thore,
      Thank you very much for taking the time to leave a comment. You are a wise man for not going and scouring google looking for answers. Sometimes it can be downright terrifying! The duration of how long a saphenous vein graft lasts for can vary from person to person. There are generalities, but I don’t think it’s fair to rely solely on this since it’s not the same for everyone. I will tell you one thing that will likely put you at ease: People who do an EXCELLENT job at taking care of themselves after surgery tend to have fewer complications and are less likely to need a repeat operation. I have had patients at my hospital who had bypass surgery in the 1980s and have never had to have another operation. There are sometimes people with a very strong propensity towards coronary artery disease where even if they do everything right, they can still have another artery or vein clog up on them. Best thing you can do is keep up with your exercise and healthy diet (as you’re already doing) and pay attention to any signs or symptoms that something isn’t right. For the most part, not many people just drop dead of heart attacks. Usually people have symptoms but ignore them and that’s when bad things happen to good people. Just make sure you look both ways before crossing the street, stop at stop signs, wear a parachute when you go skydiving, etc. There are plenty of things that can kill you, but plugged up saphenous veins need not be one of them! Keep smiling! Kind regards, Bill

  27. Hahaha fantastic answered, thanks a lot ill bear this in mind.
    PS. I was the die hard hypocondriac , spending a fortune on check ups, especially heart tests during many years …….and guess what…..I finally was right. Lucky me. Never ever felt fysically better in my life than i feel now. Again thank you and have a nice week :)

    • Cheers Thore, I know what you mean. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies! I know it’s not easy and I can certainly empathise from my own personal experience too (for different reasons) but sometimes it’s best to just deal with what is rather than worry about something that may never actually happen at all! Best wishes, Bill

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