AF Association
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Exercise and AF

I just realized that if I exercise for a few months, my resting heart rate gets into the low 50's. This is when I am more prone to AF episodes when awake or asleep. When AF starts and I immediately exercise for 5 or 10 minutes my heart rate increases and the AF stops and stays stopped maybe for a long time. I do not take any medication and have no other known health issues.

I am wondering if exercise is a negative for me; since if I am active, just doing minor things, my heart rate stays above 60 and I don't get AF. Maybe if I exercise less, my resting heart rate will be in the high 50's or low 60's and I will be less prone to AF. Or this is just AF creep??

As I learn more about AF, I become more aware of what to notice.

Anyone else notice anything like this?

5 Replies

Sounds like your exercise regime is the solution not the problem!


Sounds to me that your AF is vagally mediated hence it it starts when your HR is low.

Most normal healthy people would not have a RHR of low 50s unless they were very athletic and as we know AF is common amongst athletes. You say that this happens after you have exercised "for a few months" but don't define exercise. My guess is that you push yourself too hard during that period. Moderation in all things .


Yes, I agree with Bob: what you describe is typical of vagal-mediated AF.

Exercise, when you are doing it, inhibits the vagus nerve and so stops the attack. But regular exercise increases vagal nerve activity when you are not exercising and this may cause both the slower heart rate and the AF attacks at rest.

The vagus nerve is especially active in some people just after exercise (the "vagal brake" slowing the heart) and this is why "warming down" is helpful for them to avoid arrhythmias, drop in blood pressure and vomiting (a side-effect of overactive vagus nerve).


Thanks for the comments. They are helpful.

I am in no way an athlete, never was, and definitely do not over exert myself at 68. I get my heart rate to about 90. At home, I use two exercise devices - a rebounder and a total gym. I can do all kinds of aerobic exercises on the rebounder for 30 minutes and my heart rate gets into the 80's. I have not been able to get it to go higher on the rebounder. Others who use it sure can get a high heart rate.

A couple of years ago in France. while cycling with my brother-in-law who is much younger and cycles all the time, which I do not do or had not even ridden a bicycle for years, I got my heart rate up to 180 without much problem. Those hills will do it I guess. So I know it will get up there but it takes some pushing. I think I just have a low heart rate. My daughter has the same.

My blood pressure does drop when I exercise. No vomiting though.

So, is there a happy medium for exercise? And if so, how does one find that? Or is a pacemaker the only option?

The rebounders are a good way to exercise. Several companies make them in North America and in Europe. I bought the one on this website ( about 8 years ago and it has no signs of wear and I use it a lot. Some people may have heard of Tony Robbins, a motivational speaker in the US. He recommends rebounders. Take a look if you want a simple way to exercise at home that has many additional benefits. ( I am not advertising it and I do not have a vested interest in it.)


"So, is there a happy medium for exercise? And if so, how does one find that? "

The NICE advice appears to be a direct crib of the guidelines published by the American College of Sport Science, which recommend about 500-1000METmin/week. Walking at 4.5mph or cycling at 10-12mph on the flat is about 6 METs, so 150mins/week at that intensity would give you 900 METmin/wk. That's for healthy individuals of course, it doesn't necessarily follow that AF patients will be able to manage that.


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