AF and exercise (cycling)

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

12 Replies

  • My understanding of max heart rate is take your age from 200 eg 60 from 200 max rate =140.

  • Sorry Bob but that is incorrect. The general, but rather inaccurate rule, is 220-age. For me that would give 220-63=157. There are various other, and more accurate methods of calculating Max HR, but they are all generalisations and should only be used as guidelines.

    My own Max HR, whilst in NSR, is more like 168 than 157 and when in Tachy AF can reach escape velocity!

  • A few years ago, when I was 63, I did a treadmill stress test. I was having a nice chat with the tech when he decided to stop the test. I asked him why. He said I was going at 169 bpm, well above my (theoretical) maximum, so there was no point continuing. I objected but he stopped it anyway. I wanted to see how far I could go before feeling it was time to stop.

    220-63=157, so I was 12 bpm above the (theoretical) max.

    I wonder if the 220-minus formula is intended for people who lead sedentary lives. It sure doesn't apply to moderately active folks like me. Buzzard is way beyond me aerobically.

  • You may find that the mountain biking includes more warm-up time than your game of squash, which would help your heart rate to increase more gradually. A good warm-up and warm-down are really important at any time, but even more so when you have AF.

    The max heart rate calculator for a healthy person is 220 - age, although I've been advised to work at around 60 - 70% of this figure since being diagnosed with AF.

    Guidance in the AF world seems to be to avoid extreme sports and work to the point where it's moderately difficult but you can still hold a conversation.


  • Maximum heart rate is just that : a maximum, not a training HR.

    The HR you train at depends on fitness and your training schedule. Balanced training requires some long duration low intensity sessions, others of a shorter duration and higher intensity, and some recovery sessions. Nobody trains at maximum except for a few seconds at a time, it's simply not possible to sustain anaerobic exercise continuously. You don't train at high intensity if you're just starting out, typical training sessions might be 30 mins at 70-75% MHR 3-4 times a week for a beginner, building up to 60 mins at 80-85% MHR after a few months.

    That's for a healthy person, if you've got AF it's anybody's guess. My AF is due to a history of exercise, the last straw that finally set it off being a Bruce test in 2009 compounded by another in 1012, so in my case I'm pretty sensitive to too much.

  • Thanx BobD, CTG99 and Ectopic1

    If I think of it, with squash, I do warm up -just hitting the ball but not much running- and then the game begins -and it can start with 2-3 sprints to the corners, but compared to cycling(MTB) it is a very short time of warm up.

    The other thing about squash is that "the ball controls u" and I find that I sprint for a ball in the corner without really thinking about it, so my max heart rate goes up very fast, but with MTB it feels if I can "control" the intensity.

    Thanx again.


  • I think squash depends on how good you or your opponent is. I had a girlfriend years ago who was a national champion and in social games never bothered to take her track suit top off. She would stand in one place and her poor opponent would sprint around till they collapsed in a quivering heap. Hardly ever lost a point.

  • My hubby used to have a philosophy in squash of, if all else failed, hitting his opponent where it hurt. Those little rubber balls are quite hard! I used to end up collapsed in a quivering heap too :)

  • For me it is the rate of change in effort that seems to be the trigger. I don't play squash, although I have in the past, and am pretty sure that the explosive nature of squash would trigger my AF.

    I am learning that I can still come close to my pre-AF levels of physical activity if I build up to that level over a 20 or 30 minute period. If I try to push to that level within 10 or so minutes then I will trip into AF.

    People tend to be quite negative about Spinning Classes or the use of a Turbo-Trainer but this is how I can measure and regulate my training and learn about the likely onset of AF. It is also how I know that any explosive type of activity is almost certain to trigger my AF.

  • I agree. It seems to be connected more with sudden changes of activity. I'll get some "runs" when I first start out on anything from a walk to stepping on the elliptical, or from a walk to a climb. Goes away shortly (for now), however.

  • Theoldbuzzard

    I also feel the explosive nature of a sport, like squash, is the thing that triggers AF, together with what CTG99 said.



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