After suffering a heart attack, it's only natural to want to put your feet up.

But if you want to get back to full health, you should get out of bed - and help out with the household chores.

Experts say that making a bed, doing laundry or carrying groceries can start the road to recovery for people who have suffered a stroke or heart attack.

Exercising has huge benefits for people with cardiovascular disease, slashing their chance of a repeat attack. But many patients find the idea of working out or even leaving the house a daunting prospect.

Advertisement

This means they are often prescribed up to ten different drugs to reduce their heart risk - a goal that could be achieved with physical activity alone. The advice is particularly relevant because only half of heart attack patients currently receive the NHS cardiac rehabilitation they should.

Official guidance published yesterday by the American Heart Association (AHA) says patients should be encouraged to do everyday household chores instead of simply given medication. It says such tasks can improve strength and balance and reduce frailty, particularly among elderly patients.

The advice, published in the journal Circulation, says: "Relatively simple emphasis on increasing physical activity is often more successful than formal exercise training. Encouragement to make a bed, carry laundry, climb stairs, dance, or walk as part of a daily routine may better achieve healthful physically active behaviour in many older adults."

AHA chairman Professor Daniel Forman, a geriatric cardiologist, added that currently doctors are too focused on using drugs.

"Many healthcare providers are focused only on the medical management of diseases ... without directly focusing on helping patients maximize their physical function," he said.

"Yet, after a heart attack or other cardiac event, most patients also want to regain physical capacity and confidence to maintain their independence and quality of life, such as the ability to lift a grocery bag and to carry it to their car.

"Emphasizing physical function as a fundamental part of therapy can improve older patients' quality of life."