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
ken37712 avatar

I am in early 50s and diagnosed with lone AFib and persistent. An active runner, run 3 miles per day and keeping heart rate below 155. Generally don't feel the symptom except intense exercise. Nurse Practitioner suggested to consider Catheter Ablation (CA) due to my young age and persistent.

Options presented to me are: 1) Do nothing, 2) Cardioversion then medication, 3) Medication only 4) CA 5) Maze Surgical

I am scheduled for 1st Cardioversion + med but thinking long term between Med only or CA or even Maze but like to hear experiences from others who are in similar situation.

ThomasP avatar

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED for CARDIOVASCULAR RESEARCH STUDY 

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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:

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

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Fielding Graduate University

tparinello@email.fielding.edu

emrefaks avatar

Hi all,

Following my heart-restoring process with medicine two week ago, I had my first exercise today. It was walk & run for 1 hour. I did not have any major complaints but my pulse significantly remained low: Around 80 during fast walk and around 100 during jogging. I’m on beta-blockers and anti-arythmics for two weeks. Meanwhile my pulse in rest is also very low, around 60’s, after i’d started taking the medicines regularly. I’m just wondering if anyone also experiences the lower pulse during exercise? 

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