Exercise and heart rate

I've heard that heart rate monitors (strap around chest - reading on watch) don't work well when in afib.

What about if you are having ectopic beats? I'd like to get back into exercising but I have developed this fear of my heart rate getting too high.

16 Replies

  • Hello Di When I exercised and this brought on what I assume was AF, the readings were pretty much useless. However, if I have ectopic beats, they don't seem to cause any problem and I can manage to keep my heart rate below the perimeters that I've set for myself.

  • Hi Di, I exercise every day but I take my Medication after I walk on my Treadmill not before. The tablets really slow you down. Just a thought it might help.

    Rob xx

  • Hi Di1962

    I was the same, always afraid of over-working my heart. I bought one of the monitors you mentioned and asked my GP about a maximum safe heart rate for me, there is in fact a formula that is used to calculate this based on age. Unfortunately, I can't remember it but it can be found on websites for walkers etc. What I found was that after using the monitor a number of times I was able to recognise, without looking at the watch, the signs that meant I was reaching my limit - for me it was slight light-headedness and slight breathlessness and I only had to slow a little for my PR to drop and the symptoms to go. After a couple of weeks I stopped wearing the monitor and felt comfortable just listening to my body.

    Never caught myself in AF so cannot comment on that.

    Best wishes


  • Try 200 less your age as this is fairly safe. When I was fifty five my trainer gave me a rate of 145 and the stress test I did made me go to 165 which is deliberately high.

  • Again we are all different. For me, multiple ectopic signal an A.F. episode on the way. First I get ectopic then my heart rate goes up even if I am only sitting down and then A.F. I have had bisoprolol increased to attempt to break that cycle. I have only noticed since flecanide has been limiting the episodes to around one every 2 weeks. Before meds I was in A.F. around 70% of the time and it wasn't such an obvious pattern then so I just listened to what my body told when it came to exercise. The formula for heart rate is something minus your age but I can't remember what the something is but possibly about 240. Someone else will definitely know this. X sorry I meant 220. X

  • My Polar chest strap monitor did not work when in AF as I've said before. I'd say it also doesn't work when I have multiple/clusters of ectopics, but not certain about that. When in AF, it would shoot up to 200 and stick there, then suddenly drop say 30 seconds later. So it's obvious it's gone bananas. But nevertheless I still wore it sometimes for cycling because I needed to know if my heart rate was going too high. If it shot up to 200, then I just took it as a false reading because I was in AF, so I would ignore it but slow down till it came good again. It was obvious that my heart wasn't actually 200 or anywhere near it.

    I'm 65 and try not to go above 150 BPM. When I was in my early 50's and did a lot of cycling, I used 170/175 as a top target, derived from the formula. So it must be 220 minus your age.


  • My Polar FT4 works when I'm in AFib, in fact I wear it daily just to keep an eye on my heart rate. I also record the readings each day to see if I can spot some kind of trigger. I was wearing it when my GP did my heart rate and it was only different by 4bpm. Best thing I've ever got. When you set it up you put all your details in, birthdate, height, weight and it works out your ideal exercise rate, mine is 111-145bpm. Went out on my bike last week and it went up to 155bpm but I wasn't worried. Then sat on the sofa at the weekend it shot up to 205bpm for no apparent reason!

  • Heart rate monitors are not able to record AF (only an ECG can). What they do is showing elevated HR if and when it happens. I have several of them for my endurance sport (running and cycling). When I was in AFib I could tell by just feeling the pulse which became irregular (for me it was enough to count 10 beats to detect the irregularity). In my case my resting HR was up to 65-75 (from 48 which was normal for me) and when I got up from the chair it shot to 100-110. But I did not need the HRM to tell me that.

    HRMs have a tendency to show false readings, especially very high and very low. They seem to do a good job when they are accurate but often they give erroneous readings (as described by previous posters above). Maybe the electronics is at fault, as these readings seem to be too high (or too low) by a factor of 2.

    We are all different with regard to what is considered normal heart rate. There is a fairly simple but useful online calculator showing different ways to calculate, and their limitations. digifit.com/heartratezones/...

    With my ablation a month ago I hope these episodes will be history and I can use my HRM in the usual way (and swear at it when it goes bananas)!

  • I'm 50. had an ablation 6 weeks ago. I exercise now, but try not to go too much above 125 bpm for too long. An interesting phenomenon is that after exercise, my HR takes a long time to calm down. hours after the exercise it can still be 90. I think this is related to the ablation.

  • Since ablation 3months ago my heart rate is regularly in the low 80s. Used to be 60s. So ithink you're right.

  • I was told by my doc not to go past 150 BPM worked for me.

  • I have a Suunto watch and chest monitor. It helps me track my BPM but what you are really interested is your heart rhythm. There are a few devices out there that track this. Very expensive. If you exercise a lot like Koll and Grundy77 your max heart rate would differ from say a person who does not do a lot of strenuous exercise. You have determine what it is and feel comfortable living with. I use my monitor just to keep an eye on when I'm edging up in the red zone. As someone also noted sometimes the monitor will give you a number that is way out of whack. I remember one time on a bike ride showing 235BPM on a fairly flat road. Felt my pulse and it wasn't even close. My biggest concern is pushing myself into an Afib attack. That's why I where the monitor. Hope this helps.

  • It depends on the quality of the heart monitor and the sample time. In the gym I can get alternating atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter. My Polar RS400 set to one second samples will detect my peak heart rate that can reach 230 to 235 bpm. When I Did a Bruce protocol stress test, the ECG also measured a peak of 235 bpm, so I confident that the Polar heart monitor is showing a true reading. I also have a Garmin Vivofit that can record similar peak heart rates, but the longer sample time means that it is less accurate.

  • I used to reley on my polar ft 40 watch when I had Afib, you can see how your heart beat is irregular, when having an Af episode, youre heart rate is all over the place, you then understand why you feel so ill and are not able to do much, especially when you see it above 200bmp and your not even exercising !

    if you dont have a watch or montior youd never know this and your putting yourself a great risk ..IMO

    after my abalation I still use the watch for exercise, big difference, the readings are always rock steady

  • Thank you everyone for replying with such good information!

  • cardiologist stated if pulse rate 140 or above report it or call him, otherwise anything else ok. everyone is different consult your primary dr or cardiologist.

You may also like...