How much exercise is safe with AF? - AF Association

AF Association

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How much exercise is safe with AF?


I have been advised to adjust my level of activity and exercise according to my symptoms. I am finding this really hard to judge - my symptoms are mainly fatigue. It may sound daft, but I don't know if I just have to work through the fatigue or if I am at risk of placing too much of a strain on my heart? I ocassionally experience chest pain and ease back if this happens. I am in permanent AF but ventricular rate is slow due to disease in the electrical pathway, so I don't experience symptoms most often associated with AF. I would be grateful for any advice anyone has about activity with AF - I am less active than I used to be but family and friends think I am still overdoing it!

19 Replies

Hi Bryonny

I really would take this back to your Cardio, mine gave me a heart rate to exercise to and no higher, the problem with us guys in AF is that the rate control mechnism is totally buggered up, so for me I can start say a bike ride at 80 bpm, and within two minutes of fairly gentle exercising it can shoot up to 135. I am told that is because the ventricles are over-compensating for the adrenalin released without the atria being able to say wow hold on buddy no need to go that fast yet..

So our heart rates can get really high which is not good for us.

I say ask your Cardio, buy a good quality heart rate monitor chest band and watch (and they hate AF and give very confusing results) and then exercise within tolerances.

Your family could be right on this one

Be well


Bryonny in reply to Beancounter

Hi Ian, thanks for your message. I will take it back to my cardiologist as you suggest. ( I was due to be seen in three months but the clinic is fully booked for six months so I hope to keep well in the meantime)! I will also exercise with tolerance - or try to......

I have bought an AliveCor to monitor my rate/rhythm when I don't feel well - my problem is my ventricular rate is slow even though in AF because infrahisian disease. I can sometimes feel unwell at rest and fine when exercising or vice versa! A recent exercise test shows my ventricular rate goes up in response to exercise which is good.

Thanks for your help.

Hi Brionny,

I think it's really important to stay fit when you have AF. The symptoms of AF are down to the reduced blood flow, and if you're fit there's a lot more spare capacity in your system, so It really reduces your symptoms. So I would suggest working through the fatigue, it'll get easier. Also listen to your body, do you feel good after you've recovered from a 30 minute work out? If you still feel worse then maybe you are overdoing it.

When I was in AF I felt exhausted and breathless at times when exercising but then great afterwards. I don't think I ever overdid it with exercise, though that did include playing hockey every Saturday. cycling to Paris and back, etc. (I should point out my wife begs to differ!).


Bryonny in reply to MarkS

Dear Mark, thanks for your message. It is really motivating to read about how active you have remained and is reassuring too. I do yoga and like walking, and am keen to up activity. I work full time in an active job and guess it may be adjusting working hours to do other activities if that's my priority - will have to work that one out.

I find my body tends to tell me too as I just cannot do any more - yesterday I mucked out all the ponies and at the end of that I had to just sit and breathe for twenty minutes as I had pain everywhere. I rely on the anti coags!

Bryonny in reply to lizwright

Dear Liz, that sounds that pretty hard work mucking out the ponies. I think you are right, I need to listen to my body more, I'm not good at doing that ! I do find I need to rest sometimes after activity although very infrequent that I get breathless. Thanks for your reply.

lizwright in reply to Bryonny

I've just ridden and I still feel OK which is a great improvement but I can't push it too much.

I tend to listen to my body Bryonny. I'm usually in AF 2 - 3 days a week and in that time I hit the exercise bike or do some weights. Some days I struggle and just take it easy. I don't get chest pains, but do get a little dizzy. What really bugs me is when out of AF I'm off like the clappers. I asked my cardio about this a couple of years ago and he said when in AF, I would know my limits.

Bryonny in reply to Jason1971

Dear Jason, thanks for your reply. I am in constant AF but ventricular rate is slow because of other changes in my heart, so I don't get the awful palpitations others experience. I do sometimes feel lightheaded but this is unpredictable, can occur at rest or with activity! What to up activity so maybe I just have to do it gradually and assess my response.

I was put on an exercise course and they insisted I stop as soon as My heart rate went to 150. But once settled to carry on unless it went to 150 to quick. (I had a heart Band on at the gym)

Be Well

Bryonny in reply to Offcut

Dear Offcut, many thanks for your reply. My ventricular rate is slow because of other underlying problems with my heart even though I am in permanent AF so checking my heart rate isn't an indicator for me - at least I don't think it is as it doesn't go like the clappers!

it really helps to get feedback from others as it does help to reassure me and better understand how I am not alone with the challenges of living with AF.

Offcut in reply to Bryonny

I think is more so you have a benchmark figure to aim at you may be lower/higher. I have lung problems and I used to take a peak flow and that was a good indicator of how well I was doing. My lung condition has now changed and it is of no use only as a possible change in my output because of infection. if that makes sense?

I'd pay good money for an answer to that question, I'm left feeling like a fool for listening to the doctors when they insisted that AF is no reason to stop exercise. Over the last five years my AF has deteriorated in a series of very distinct steps, each one of them preceded by an attempt to resume or increase my exercise. I did ask how to gauge my exercise level, but they just avoided the question.

At the moment I seem to be OK dawdling around at a HR of 70-80, but I became dramatically worse the last time I allowed my HR to go over 100.

Dear Ectopic1, many thanks for your reply. I was sorry to read about the lack of advice and information you have received, especially as your increase in exercise related to a deterioration in your symptoms. I hope you find some clarification about exercise and AF specific to you.

I've only just got back to using some light weight training and using my stationary bike for 10 mins and that's 7 weeks post ablation. No way could I or would I have done any of this if I still had AF.

Dear Loo, really good to hear that you have started doing some light training. I started back with yoga class again this evening - to me obvious I need to go carefully as I felt a bit weird at times! Still, I wanted to give it a go as I love the exercise.

Thanks Bryonny I have days when I've got energy and days when there is none...easy does it dear !

Dear Loo, I'll remember that - easy does it sounds good to me! Need to put that in place tomorrow, full on day at work today and I am pretty tired.

Hi Bryonny,

Seeing your original question..........a few thoughts;-

I think exercising with AF is a difficult issue.

I have been in persistent AF for 4 years but like to go to the gym twice a week.

I feel good afterwards and for the rest of the day.

I have asked many HCP's about how to manage my heart rate in the gym and they do not seem to know The only advice from one consultant was that he would not worry if it goes to a very high level as long as it comes down "to normal" again when you stop exercising!

Accurate measuring is difficult with AF...........what devices are accurate with AF?

I find that my MIO watch shows a very different figure to those on the exercise machines.

Both can display 180+ at times when my max should be 158.

Overall, tiredness is something that does affect me too.

But I'm convinced that going to the gym helps.

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