If you’ve received a diagnosis of heart valve disease and you’re interested in remaining physically active, there are a number of safe exercises to benefit both your mind and your body.

Exercise is important for overall heart health. In fact, staying physically active can actually improve recovery should you need surgery for heart valve disease. It also lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and more while helping you sleep better.

The types and intensity of activities that people with heart valve disease can do safely depend on a number of factors, including the type of heart valve disease and its severity.

If you have heart valve disease, It’s important to speak with your doctor about what types of exercise are right for you and whether there’s anything you should be aware of before beginning an exercise program. Your doctor may also prescribe an exercise program for you.

It’s also essential to listen to your body. Signs that you may need to take a rest or modify your exercise routine can include shortness of breath, lightheadedness, chest pain, and unusual swelling in your feet or ankles. Rest is just as important as exercise for managing your condition.

Consider trying these six safe exercises if you’ve received a diagnosis of heart valve disease.

Aerobic exercise, such as yoga, has numerous health benefits, particularly for your heart.

By combining light physical exercise with deep breathing, yoga can help decrease heart rate, reduce stress, and bring down blood pressure. This makes yoga a safe and healthy choice for most people living with heart valve disease.

Older adults and those who are new to yoga should consider beginning with gentle, restorative, or chair-based exercises. Then, if desired, you can work your way up to more challenging poses.

People with heart valve disease may need to modify some poses and avoid any poses that place the head below the heart, such as headstands and other inversions. Placing your head below your heart can make your blood pressure spike to dangerous levels.

Walking is another aerobic activity that’s good for your heart. It’s also a great place to start if you’re easing into an exercise routine and want to improve your cardiovascular health.

Brisk walking increases your heart rate but shouldn’t make you breathless. The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests increasing your activity until you’re breathing faster and harder but can still carry on a conversation. Anything beyond that and you may be overdoing it.

However, walking doesn’t always have to be brisk. Even taking smaller walks throughout the day — such as walking to the mailbox, walking your dog, or taking the stairs instead of an elevator — can help keep your heart healthy.

Swimming is a great exercise option for people with heart valve disease.

Swimming can improve stamina and heart health. As with other aerobic activities, it’s recommended to do swimming (or a combination of swimming and other aerobic exercises) 3 to 5 times a week. The workout should be light to somewhat hard.

An easy way to build up stamina is to begin by swimming for just a few minutes and gradually increase that amount until you’re able to swim at a pace that works for you for 30 to 60 minutes.

People with certain degrees of heart valve disease should avoid high intensity aerobic exercise, so in those cases it’s important to steer clear of high intensity swimming workouts or swim interval training.

Any rhythmic, continuous activity, like cycling, can be beneficial for heart valve disease.

Research suggests that cycling can lower cardiovascular risk factors, improve cholesterol levels, and lower high blood pressure.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends checking your heart rate during or immediately after activity. A target heart rate should be 70 to 80 percent of your predicted maximal heart rate (220 minus your age).

Strength training with light or medium effort can be good for your heart.

However, according to the AHA, people with heart valve disease should avoid heavy lifting and other exercises that can cause straining or grunting, such as situps. These sorts of activities can rapidly raise your blood pressure, putting strain on your heart.

Hand weights, resistance bands, weight machines, and exercises using your body weight (such as sit-to-stands) can all count toward strength training. In addition to helping your muscles work more efficiently, strength training can increase your strength for daily activities.

The CDC recommends doing strength training 2 or 3 days per week with rest days in between.

In addition to aerobic activity and strength training, research has shown that simple stretching can be helpful for improving heart health and lowering blood pressure.

Stretching can improve flexibility and movement. It can also reduce stress, which, according to the AHA, is an important way to lower your risk of heart disease.

Stretching each key muscle group (such as your legs, arms, back, and core) for about 30 seconds is recommended.

You can stretch 2 to 7 days per week — it’s a safe exercise to do daily.

As with yoga, it’s important to be mindful of any stretches or poses that place your head below your heart.

Exercise is an essential tool in managing heart valve disease.

If you’ve received a diagnosis of heart valve disease, you can start or continue many popular physical activities, like walking and swimming.

However, before beginning an exercise program, consult your doctor to find out whether it’s right for you and how you can exercise safely to meet your needs.