Afib need not be the end of your fitness regime

Although i am 49, i think it has to be said that any form of fitness, no matter what - will help re-energise all Afib patients. We have Afib, we have to get on with it, and thats maybe easy for me to say as over the last few months i have returned to 3 hrs a week of pretty full on kickboxing cardio. As a result i now only take 1 fleicanide tablet a day, and will be looking to decrease that to every other day at the end of June.

It doesn't matter what you do, but give it a go. You will also be assisting you to fend off other heart illnesses and diabetes asap an example.

My heart is healthy, i am lucky, and since diagnosis i haven't had another episode, the energy i get from a workout makes me feel so much better, and so much more focussed. Please give it a go folks, up your heart rate a bit and see how much better you will feel.

( speak to your doc first mind ! ). :-)

Happy & Healthy we are living with Afib but not slaves to it.

10 Replies

  • Well said, Keith! You are so right. When I was first diagnosed my cardiologist said, "Exercise, exercise, exercise!" And though these are not my original words, I read them yesterday and love the sentiment that we will all be healthier if we make sure to sleep well, move a lot, eat a little, and smile more to be healthy. That sums it up. Living well with AF is a challenge and the only choice as far as I am concerned!

  • Hi Keith

    Wonderful post, and particularly applicable to me, with my situation. I have been diagnosed with persistent A Fib, and after a failed CV the cardio has said simply you have no other significant symptoms, so concentrate on the lifestyle changes and come back in six months and we'll see how you feel.

    In addition the other tests have shown my heart is not too bad (I'm 59 so it's not perfect) and I have normal-ish blood pressure, pulse rate and cholesterol.

    But I don't have an active lifestyle, and at over 110kgs really need to get some exercise and lose at least 30kgs or so for my own sake, so I am literally trying to change my lifestyle completely.

    Don't like gyms much, so I'm looking at group classes which I know are going to really hurt at first, and supplementing with cycling, which is one of the few activities which in the recent past I've actually enjoyed and which has given me weight loss.

    But I do have some questions for you and anyone else with A Fib (persistent or otherwise) about exercise

    When I exercise my heart rate jumps up from a standing roughly 75 to around 110-115 really quickly, like within a minute or so of a warm up, it then appears to act fairly normally in that it will increase with more exercise, but I must admit to being slightly worried that I could overdo the exercise (especially in a group setting)

    So do you wear any form of pulse monitor?, Any recommendations from anyone for type? or should I ignore that?

    What would you consider the ideal/maximum rates you would exercise at? (220 less my age would give roughly 161) I must admit to running out of breath before heart rate currently, but if (when) I manage to get fitter is it really important to set a target pulse and try and stick within it?. Seen lots of advice at 60% to 80% of maximum, but that would be 96 to 128, and I jump into that almost immediately.

    I am seeing the doc next week to talk about this, she encourages the exercise (and weight loss) but I am interested in how other people exercise with A Fib, what their challenges have been and how they overcame them.

    So any tips please? advice? encouragement? success stories would be even better

    I do agree however about the sentiments

    I have been diagnosed with A Fib, but I need to take control of it, not it of me.



  • Ian - I will try to answer this as both someone who has permanent AF and as someone who is a regular exerciser, and was before going into that state.

    "When I exercise my heart rate jumps up from a standing roughly 75 to around 110-115 really quickly, like within a minute or so of a warm up, it then appears to act fairly normally in that it will increase with more exercise,"

    This is normal whether you have AF or not, especially if you are just starting out on a fitness regime.

    "So do you wear any form of pulse monitor?, Any recommendations from anyone for type? or should I ignore that?"

    I nearly always wear a HRM - I usually use a Polar, but any quality make is good. With AF your heart-rate may jump around a lot and so it will mean that a HRM will not always record accurately, but it is better than nothing. Wearing one regularly also helps you to note if there seems to be any changes, and also let's you know if you are just having a poor day (these happen with or without AF) or if you are pushing too haard or not enough. But you should always listen to your body and if something feels 'too hard' it probably is, irrespective of what the machine is telling you.

    "What would you consider the ideal/maximum rates you would exercise at? (220 less my age would give roughly 161)."

    When you have AF these figures go out of the window. My maximum heart rate was about 170 pre-AF (I am 53) and it is now over 220. This is no big deal as long as you find that your resting heart rate is back down below 90 or so. I tend to limit myself to 180 to 190 max heart-rate with only occasionally pushes through 200 when exerting myself a lot. Sadly all these extra beats are only just making up for the lack of volume of blood being pumped through, or AF sufferers would be Olympic athletes (though some are it should be said).

    A good rule, especially when starting out, is not to push yourself to a level at which you could not carry out a conversation - this is especially a good measure when cycling. Pushing too hard at first will probably not bring any extra benefit, but will probably make you fed up with the way it makes you feel!

    "So any tips please? advice? encouragement? success stories would be even better"

    You have already taken the most important step by deciding to do this - it will seem hard at first, but don't overdo it (3 or 4 spells of exercise a week is ample when starting out) and you will soon find it gets easier. The chances are that when you have been exercising for a while, and have lost a few kilos, you will wonder why you never did it sooner, and may even be glad the AF prompted you to do it. I mainly do cycling (supplemented with some hill walking) and for me at least I find that cycling with AF is little different from cycling without it except on steep hills. This has prompted me to lose some weight as well and now I am putting in faster times on some circuits than I ever did before. Exercise is good for everyone - and exercise that makes you feel good gives you more than mere physical benefits.

  • Many many thanks Elmbury, I was thinking of buying a Polar, and I will do that now. I really appreciate the encouragement, I went out for around an hour yesterday on the bike just fairly gently, and it reminded me just how much fun and enjoyment I used to get, a little saddle sore this morning, but I remember that goes away with practise. (must go and buy some cream)

    But you are right about the hills, I live at the top of a small one, and even when I was cycling regularly that last 500 metres killed me, had to walk yesterday. Will probably go out again over the weekend.

    Thanks again


  • With the lovely sunshine it is great to be getting out at the moment, and yes, eventually your rear matches the shape of your saddle :).

    I am interested to hear that you are also noticing it on the hills - I've been guessing that when we really push the heart increases speed but because it is so disorganised we don't get any more oxygen being pumped through to where it is needed.

  • Hi Keith

    Well said I think that this is an area that could well do with a look at from the medics. Having been fairly fit when first diagnosed 15 years ago and initially being told to do absolutely nothing at all as any thing would be extremely dangerous. Now 3 ablations and 12 or so cardioversion s later the advice is exercise but don't over do it. Wise words except that the AF never happens whilst you are exercising and you are on top of the world until some hours later when the express train comes along. From my experience if more attention was paid to post opp exercising correctly I am convinced that repeat bouts of could be cut.

    I also believe that however bad you think life has become it must be 10 times worse for our other halves so don't give up

  • Well said Keith - I am 67, but I do 3 x 2 hour gym sessions a week. I don't use my own pulse meter as most cardio machines have one fitted.

    I think it is really important to try and retain some measure of fitness although obviously its much more difficult for some - we are fortunate and i never forget that.. I try and keep to a target weight as well as the pounds can slip on all too easily. Exercise and weight help with blood pressure and with avoiding stretch on the atria which all helps to control AF.

    I tried Flecainide every other day, but I think the half life is short enough for the blood concentration to drop to quite a low level after 2 days - it didn't work for me.

    Take care, Chris H

  • Hi Chris

    I am interested that you can get the fitted pulse meter on the cardio machines working, I am in persistent A Fib, and I get nothing, won't even register on a single machine at the gym. What do others find?



  • Hi Ian,

    I've never tried a gym cardio machine pulse meter while in AF, but years ago my Polar pulse monitor gave a blank display if I went into AF.

    I am in the fortunate position to be nearly 4 years from having an ablation, and with the aid of 50mg of Flecainide daily I am completely AF free. The odd tachycardia, and frequent ectopics, but no AF. Hence the pulse meter works.

    Regards, Chris

  • Im so glad some of you are keen to push forwards a bit more their fitness regimes. If only a few steps a day it will help i am sure.I have just returned from a trip to Thailand with my wife and i had a few bouts of Afib, probably because i drank a few too many bottles of chang beer ! But my meds helped ( fleicanide) so get out there if you can guys especially now the weather is good, and have that walk, and feel the difference.

    Little steps, major changes.

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