Newbie here! Atrial fibrillation in endurance athletes, ..... is there guidance for managing AF while maintaining sporting activities?

Hi All,

I am a newbie to the forum and most importantly (for me) a newbie to having to manage AF. This is just a quick post to ask if there is any guidance for people who have experienced AF and are also actively partaking in endurance sport? For the record I was a triathlete and now a long-distance cyclist. Specifically, I am interested in better understanding the risks and benefits of endurance sport upon my AF and whether I can appropriately adapt my lifestyle to suit my condition.

Many thanks and the best of luck to everyone on your journey

7 Replies

  • To be sure AF will impact on any idea you have of being able to perform at the same level as before but there is no reason depending on how symptomatic you are of still participating in endurance sports. I would look closely at what your now comfortable with and would be weary about pushing too hard. I have continued cycling and running whilst in AF with rides of 3 hours or so. However the best way forward is to look at an ablation by discussing your options with a electro physiologist. I have had two ablations now and have returned successfully to veteran cyclo cross and road racing although I'm in recovery from my second ablation at the moment but will be racing again come end of September. Interestingly some top athletes like Haimar Zubeldia, who rides for the US-based RadioShack/Nissan/Trek Cycle Race Team have come back strong. Haimar was successfully treated for persistent atrial fibrillation early in 2012 and as since competed at the highest level in one of the most demanding of sports.

  • Hi Mike, you'll find several people here who have AF but continue sport. You may find that non-weight bearing activity such as cycling makes it easier to handle AF than running. The text books say that AF reduces power output by 30%. I found that initially I lost about 20% on a bike and over time this reduced to 8-10% measured on a Cyclops turbo. My heart rate during AF would be in the range 200 - 220bpm, but in my early 60's I could hit 190 (not in AF) in a Spin class. I found measuring the r-r interval with an iThlete app whilst in bed would give a good indication of whether I should train, but the sensitivity to AF could mean that it wouldn't give a reading. Medication may have more of an effect on you than people who are not as fit. Dronedarone and amiodarone put me close to death but that wasn't diagnosed until the third admission in three months. Only 6 in 100,000 people are affected like that. Despite having great stats compared to other people it may not stop you having a stroke. That's what happened to me this month although I wasn't exerting myself. However, the deities were kind and I only lost my sight on the right side. Nevertheless, apixaban anticoagulant hit me hard and I had to stop it after four days.

    My you enjoy your cycling, stay well and come back to the Forum again to let us know how it's going.



  • I know my cardiologist would tell you to not hold back

  • Your cardiologist might not tell all his patients that.

  • That may be true. I should have said "he told me not to use AF as an excuse not to do exercise, including high intensity exercise"

  • I've had a cryo-baloon ablation and an RF ablation for AF and AFL in the last 2 months. My EP said more than 3 hours a week will make me fitter, but not healthier. I'd never thought of it like that. He also said that more than 3 hours a week is classed as endurance training. Funny, before AF that was half a Saturday long run in prep for 100km race. There are studies that say continuing with endurance sports will make the return of AF more likely. This coupled with 23andme saying I have SNP rs2200733 making me twice as likely to have AF means I should probably listen to his advice and find another activity. I miss those long runs. If you can't solve a problem on a 4hour run it can't be solved 😊.

  • It's surely the pace rather than the distance that is significant. Going for a steady 4 hour run is one thing and anything competitive, which will almost inevitably goad one into asking far too much of one's heart, is quite another.

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