Too much exercise ??


Does anyone know if doing too much exercise can cause more problems with AF.

I have become a middle aged man in lycra (MAMIL)

I love it but not sure I am doing more harm than good.

I don't get many if any episodes of AF and take 2 x 100mg of Flecainide

My resting pulse is around 60-65 and never goes over 160 even when i am really pushing it.

Just thought i would put it out there to see what others think.

Forgot to say i'm 48 and had AF for 4 years

30 Replies

  • I was told years ago that max pulse rate should be no more than 200 less your age. In your case 152 so you think about it. Everything in moderation!

    I probably had AF at your age but never knew it when I was hitting the gym and remember now getting that tunnel vision thing at the end of a ten minute hard row but thought that was normal. My trainer banned me one night when she did a random BP and HR check and found it off the scale. One reason I am now so cynical about MAMILs. LOL


  • In my Grannies day it was said that your systolic BP was OK if it was 100 plus your age. NICE now say, The aim of treatment is to get your clinic blood pressure down to below 140/90 mmHg if you are aged under 80, or below 150/90 mmHg if you are aged 80 or over.

    Full article:

  • Hi,

    I am probably in the same boat(47). I have infrequent bouts of AF, sometimes when exercising. I've learnt to live with it. In fact I once exercised whilst in AF and within 5 mins. of finishing a 5 mile run my heart rate returned to normal. I tried Flecanide as pip but it had no effect. I wear a heart monitor whilst exercising and usually go up to 170. Sometimes really pushing it sets off AF but then other times not. Weird.

  • Hi Chris,

    I am sure that my over exercise is what caused me to get A/Fib , I was absolutely hooked on exercise and I was cycling up to 400km a week , racing at the weekends , going to the Gym 4 nights a week along with a lot of other challenges that I took on and I did this sort of stupid things for years . One of the things that I discovered was I never Hydrated enough and that also contributed to my problem .

    You can read in the papers every week where top Athletes get A/Fib and are put on Fleccanide and carry on which is what I did and the Flec held it at bay for a while but it broke through . When I had my Aorta Valve replaced with an ATS mechanical one I asked the surgeon if he could do a Maze treatment to curb my A/Fib .

    Well I can tell you it did not work and I not have Permanent A/Fib which is like a missed beat every now and then and the frustrating thing is I have to take Bata Blockers and they really slow you down !

    My answer is if you are getting A/Fib , take it easy and go walking everyday and take it easy on the Alcohol..

    Cheers .........Kvntoday

  • Endurance athletes and those who over-train are prime candidates for AF at younger ages as are fast jet pilots. It is thought that the effort causes the atrium to expand stretching the normal electrical pathways and allowing new ones to form.


  • Hi and thanks for the replies. When I get back from a ride I feel fine and my pulse goes back to normal. All the episodes i have had have been when I have eaten a large meal. Also when I put my body amour on after eating. I'm a police officer not a gangster by the way lol.

    I've not had to go to hospital for a few years now and to be honest my fitness levels have got better. I was just wondering if was making my afib worse

  • One thing about A/ Fib is it makes me very grumpy 😡

  • On another Forum a Cops wife said that he was being retired on medical grounds due to being on Warfarin and its dangers if he sustained an injury.

  • It's amazing how your story is like mind . I am a keen cyclist. And haven't had any bouts of af for a year and even before then it was only short lived . I too had done a bike ride last month and had a big meal which started my stomach churning. This then started off af for an hour.i know this sounds crazy but I never feel my heart out of rhyme it's always my stomach ?? I was told if this happens to take flec 300mg if it doesn't return to normal. I hate taking tabs as my resting bmp is only 52 . And I'm not happy with the thought of making it even lower?? I am now trying some natural products . Which is an area doctors don't seem to interested in but I have no choose as I am not mentally able to keep taking these dangerous drugs I just can't . I know it' work for most . But for me I just can't get my head around it. For I believe the reason af can get worse is because these drugs are not stopping the fire spreading just keeping the flames down? There must be a reason why it happens I just hope there is more research done in this area . Rather than the profit making side of drugs

  • I tend to exercise between 60 -80% of my maximum. Don't seem to get any trouble then. I'd just say listen to your body and you should know when enoughs enough! Everyone is different but AF shouldn't rule your Dr told me that and I try to implement it into my daily life. Keep training good for the.heart just don't go mad!!!

  • I try and exercise when in AF as most times it puts me back to normal rhythm , weird!

  • It does for a friends wife with ectopic beats. She runs three miles a day and goes on trekking holidays.

  • at our last talk for SurreyASG the EP suggested walking a lot rather than marathon training!! I think you can aggravate things by overdoing it!

  • Common sense must play a part, along with given facts. There are many top athletes, some of whom play a public role in highlighting AF, who have succumbed to this condition. Logic would say that these athletes, having trained at a very high level must in some way have contributed to an AF diagnoses, the AF will then materialise by which time the damage has been done. Bobs generally held hypothesise that it can overstretch the atrium thus allowing new electrical pathways is a valid one.

    There is no doubt in my mind that exercise is vital for well being, but having been diagnosed, cut your cloth accordingly.

    Personally speaking having been a fit person, exercising sometimes with perceived vigour (!) I have had to adjust. It has been a struggle at times, as confidence goes and fear appears!

  • I am also on the same Flecainide dosage at a healthy 61yo.

    My experience is definitely no over exercise, 2+ miles walking a day (will probably seem boring) I use Nordic poles to make it more interesting and increase the benefits.

  • I'm also a Mamil! I think it's essential to exercise if you have AF - it makes it far easier to handle AF attacks where the blood supply drops 15-20%. I carried on exercising whether I had AF or not.

    As others have said, they key is not to push yourself too much. I did the Hayling/Paris ride whilst I was getting AF and also on sotalol (evil drug) - that felt and was bad. Now I restrict myself to 30 miles on the flat or 20 miles with a few hills, just a couple of times a week and I feel good. I also swim, kayak etc but again I don't push it.

    After exercise you should feel energised, if you feel tired, you've probably overdone it.


  • Whilst there are studies that show a greater tendency to AF in people who have a long history of aerobic exercise, I don't believe that there are any studies that show that episodes of AF increase with exercise. Your medication is an antiarrhythmic and so may be giving you a false impression of your maximum heart rate.

    With the caveat that many of us react differently to AF, I found that AF did increase with exercise. I had a history of aerobic exercise and I came back to exercise after a long break. In my early 60s my resting heart was 48 and sub-maximal VO2 was 54. Using the tests in Cycling Fitness my maximum heart rate was 194 and looking at my records for 2008, I could hit 190 in a red line sprint at the end of a hard Spin class. I would recover quickly with no signs of AF or arrhythmia. My 2012 records show running at HIIT sprints of 15.5 Km/h didn't cause a problem but red-line Spin bike work was registering up to 227 BPM; it was AF but I was in denial. In 2013 I could row 5km on a Concept 2 in 22 minutes as a warm up to a one hour gym session, but I was starting to get AF to 230 BPM intermittently once my steady state work took me to 150 BPM. By April 2014, AF was a regular occurrence at 150 to 155 BPM steady state. That was confirmed by a Bruce protocol stress test at 13.5 METs. In May 2014 I was prescribed dronedarone and quickly developed a rare and severe reaction; on my third admission to hospital I was on 70% oxygen, and I was told last week that I "had been near to death". When I was discharged from hospital in July 2014, I could only walk 100 metres, rest and then walk back. Now I only take prednisolone to control lung inflammation and I don't take an antiarrhythmic. During the past year I've only been able to get to the gym for one month, but steady state rowing at 150 BPM for 30 to 40 minutes hasn't shown any sign of AF. In my case, AF did get worse with exercise but conversely a prolonged absence of exercise has so far cured it, even at > 80% maximum heart rate.

    With regard to maximum heart rates I use the Metzl and Norway University calculation:

    211 - (age x 0.64) = base

    base - resting heart rate = heart rate reserve

    heart rate reserve + resting heart rate = maximum heart rate

  • A further comment for you to digest! I am 66, AF for 7 years and a keen cyclist. Typically I will do 100mpw. I too have the same concerns about, am I overdoing it, but I enjoy cycle touring. Certainly a good level of fitness minimises the effects of AF. I sometimes use cycling to get back into NSR - but it does not always work. Cutting out all alcohol has also helped. However, still the same dilema - what is regarded as overdoing it? Some people think even jogging is too much. I think I should avoid 100 mile rides and also keep the pace down on hilly rides, however 60 milers at a steady pace seem fine. My previous cardiologist, who was a strong lady cyclists (Fred Witton etc) said "listen to your body and do not over do it". Over to you!

  • It great to hear people's views. I think it's right to listen to your body. I can honestly say I feel 100 times better by getting my fitness up with cycling and I always feel good when i finish a ride.

  • In my opinion Chris, you're quite right about listening to your body. If you feel good with it, then why stop? If you are experiencing issues, then have a re-think. Common sense to me. If I worried too much about things, I don't think I'd get out of bed on a morning. Hope the cycling goes well.

  • Thanks Jason

  • My EP says do what you like but be prepared to feel rough the next day (he puts it in more technical terms). I am not prepared to give up riding my horse yet and I am fine unless I have to get a bit strong with horse so try to not put myself in that situation. Horse riding is very physical, I know the horse does most of the work but the rider does work.

  • When you are doing something that you are passionate about I think you are prepared to put up with whatever happens and you tolerate things like A.F. better if your mental state is good.

    I gave up riding when I had to go on warfarin as all my horses were youngsters and I knew at some point I would almost certainly take a tumble and from past experience, probably land on my head !I gave my prized possession to my best friend and they are now doing really well in competition. I love watching her but it is not the same!

    I have a great life with lots of new hobbies but none that are quite so absorbing as my horses were. I am Definately more affected by my A.F. now. Is that because it has got worse or because I'm more fixated on it? I don't know. I would say to exercise some caution but within reason continue whatever makes you happy unless as with me, it is actually dangerous to continue. X

  • I'm careful in what I do riding wise and don't go haring across stubble fields. And my horse is elderly so I'm not that brave! The warfarin is a pain, I am covered in bruises a lot of the time and no idea where they come from. I am 58 and my AF is getting worse, in my case it is due to anxiety.

  • Hi lizwright

    I think you are right. I love my cycling and since doing it feel fitter and happier. I think that combination takes the stress away from having Afib.

  • I believe that your maximum heart rate changes depending on how strenuous an exercise routine you've been accustomed to and your conditioning. If you've been exercising regular the tolerances rise. According to John-boys' calculations my max should be around 166. I usually red line on my bike around 185. Anything over that I stop. I monitor my heart real close at the beginnings of my bike rides and up hills. I'm currently on beta blockers, statins and anti coagulants. I've had only one afib attack while riding over the past year. I need to remember to warm up sufficiently before exercising whether it's swimming or biking.

  • I am now over 12 months post ablation at Barts and when I first asked Professor Schilling if I could compete again as a fell runner and cyclist he said get myself referred which I did and Mark Early who did the procedure told me life was for living when I asked if I could race again. I have now done a number of criterium and plan to race cyco cross and win the Three Peaks Cyclo Cross in my age cat in September. I have lost 2 stone and feel great, I am also better toned and in shape then when I raced previously which I put down to a combination of core work (yoga) and cycling. Of course I am always looking over my shoulder as I know AF could break through again and I will need a second ablation to close the gaps! What I'm trying to say here is life is for living and doing what makes you happy, healthy and stress free. My only word of caution is that if you have not regularly competed as is the case with many MAMILS be careful as it is likely you will strain your body and its tissues and cause an injury but as long as you listen to your body, eat and sleep well it's good for you.

  • I've just looked at the heart rate calc. that I posted and realised that I left out the target percentage heart rate. It should be:

    211 - (age x 0.64) = base

    base - resting heart rate = heart rate reserve

    Target heart rate = (heart rate reserve x % target heart rate) + resting heart rate

    Aged 67 with a resting pulse of 52, my 80% target heart rate was:

    211 - (67 x 0.64) = 168 base

    168 - 52 = 116 heart rate reserve

    (116 x 0.8) + 52 = 145 target heart rate at 80% of maximum heart rate.

    I'm now close to 69 and I continue to feel comfortable at 150 bpm steady state so as always with these calculations, use them as a guide.

    I hope that clarifies things. I wish you good times with your cycling and running guys!

  • When we moved here nine years ago we were amused to see a lycra clad couple in in their mid 80's out every day for a slow trot round the park. She was tiny and he was very tall and rather frail looking. Suddenly she was out on her own and we asked after him. She said that he had suffered a stroke.

    After nearly a year he was out with her again. I don't know how they even get into the gear and now they are down to a determined walk. Good for them.

  • Hi All

    There is much discussion on exercise and it's effect on AF, or vice versa.

    I have found that a game of squash ( similar to raqcket ball in the USA) is more likely to put me into AF than something like mountain biking. I think it has something to do with the intensity of the sport or the speed (sprint and stop of squash).

    My heart rate also shows that with squash I can go to 195bpm within a minute or two, while with MTB (mountain bike) it takes longer and also does not reach even the 180bpm mark.

    My cardiologist did show me a sort of a chart that gave guidelines about what sports are more suitable for AF, compared with others, but I cannot remember where he got it.

    Do any of you know about a guideline like that?

    Janco Vorster

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