What do I need to know about exercise and AFib?

What do I need to know about exercise and AFib?


For starters, there are some key important facts to know about AFib and exercise. Some people find that exercise seems to cause their heart to go into atrial fibrillation, and their heart rate remains closer to normal when they are at rest.

Several studies suggest that atrial fibrillation is more common among trained athletes, and even previously trained athletes are at a greater risk of developing AFib when compared with a non-athletic or sedentary population. This appears to be especially true of older athletes and endurance athletes still training in their 40s and 50s. Although many of the reasons are speculative, studies suggest that years of intense exercise contribute to both chronic inflammation and also physiological changes in the atrium that eventually lead to increased risk of developing AFib. In some cases, detraining is recommended to lower risks and relieve symptoms.

AFib can reduce the pumping ability of your heart. During exercise, the body needs more blood to be efficiently delivered. If the heart is less efficient, you may notice that you fatigue more easily.

  • If you experience symptoms of lightheadedness or fatigue, do not chastise yourself for “laziness” or decide that you are “out of shape” and should push yourself harder.
  • Fatigue or light-headedness may be an important clue about your heart’s ability to keep up with the demands of exercise. Take note and let your healthcare provider know.
  • Start slowly, especially if you’ve not been exercising regularly.


With AFib, your heart’s rhythm and rate may change during exercise. Some people with AFib find that their heart rate and rhythm remains closer to normal when their body is either resting or relaxing, but intense physical activity causes their heart to go into atrial fibrillation.

  • Starting gently with ten to fifteen minutes a few times a week may help you evaluate whether your exercise triggers your heart into AFib.
  • Remember, some people are not aware of symptoms so you may be advised to monitor your heart initially.
  • If your healthcare provider has recommended that you monitor your heart rate or use a smartphone EKG reader, find out if you have special instructions for monitoring your heart’s activity during or after exercise.

Atrial fibrillation medications can alter your body’s response to exercise. Patients who take medications to slow their heart rate may find that their heart rate does not increase as much as they normally expect with exercise.

  • If your AFib medications keep your heart rate from going up, it usually indicates that the medications are doing a good job of controlling your heart rate.
  • If you are aiming for a target heart rate and medications seem to keep you from reaching your goal, consider asking your doctor for an alternate test of exertion like measuring how easy it is to talk, sing or carry on conversation during exercise. These can be good for checking your level of exertion, no matter what the pulse rate indicates.
  • You will still reap the beneficial effects of exercise, even if your heart rate is lowered by the medication.
Recent Discussions From The Exercise Forum
PSwiss avatar

I was just diagnosed with Afib. I had a reading on my Apple Watch series 4 and on my Iphone X.

Is the Kardia mobile and the Alivecor app a better monitor than the already installed Apple Watch ECG?

Any suggestions for a different device such as the Emay EMG-10, Bodimetries Performance, Snap ECG Portable, Facelake FL20, Lycos Life Advanced or a chest strap monitor?

Which is best for exercising at gym; bike and rowing?

ThomasP avatar

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The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between self-care and depression in cardiovascular patients when other factors are involved. This research also aims to improve cardiovascular rehabilitation programs and treatment outcomes.

This study is voluntary, anonymous, and confidential and will take approximately 15 minutes to complete a series of questions on a secure website.

TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS RESEARCH, YOU:

- Must be 18 years of age or older

- May be experiencing symptoms of depression or may be diagnosed with a depressive disorder. Symptoms of depression include but are not limited to, decreased overall mood, low energy, fatigue, poor concentration, poor sleep, feelings of hopelessness.

AND WITHIN THE LAST 12-MONTHS:

- Have been diagnosed with a cardiovascular condition, OR

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To participate in this study, please visit the below website

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If you have questions or would like more information about this study, please feel free to contact me:

Thomas V. Parinello, M.A., Ed.S

Fielding Graduate University

tparinello@email.fielding.edu

justme9898 avatar

I am disabled and unable to walk so I go to walter aerobics.  During the exercise I wear my HRwatch and keep my pulse under 130.  As soon as it hits 120 I will start cool down exercises and it will go down into the 80s or 90s.  So no problem during exercise, but about half the time 3 to 4 hours after exercising I will have palpatations and an increased heart rate.  I had an ablation a month ago and my pulse is not going to the 150-200 range that it was before, but even though it goes up to just 95-120 I feel terrible and it lasts for a couple of hours.  Has anyone else had this problem with exercise?  Any suggestions?  I seem to be able to do very low quality exercise keep my pulse under 100 with no effect, but I would really like to get back to interval training.

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