Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Can exercise damage my pacemaker's wires?

Q. I had a pacemaker implanted a few months ago. I am planning to join a gym to get back some strength in my arms and upper body, but I am afraid of damaging the wires with some of the presses and pull-down movements I would have to do to work out on the gym's machines. Are there any exercises or movements I should avoid?

A. It's great that you want to exercise and improve your upper-body strength. You just need to be a bit more careful going about it than someone without a pacemaker.

Pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) have two basic working parts — the generator, which is implanted under the skin between the shoulder and chest, and one or more wires that stretch from the generator to the heart. These wires, called leads (pronounced leeds), are designed and built to flex and move freely when the arm or shoulder nearest the pacemaker or ICD moves.

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