Exercising with persistent AF.: I think... - AF Association

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Exercising with persistent AF.

RickyM profile image
20 Replies

I think exercising with AF is a difficult issue. I have been in persistent AF for 4+ years but like to go to the gym twice a week. I feel good afterwards and for the rest of the day. I have asked many Healthcare Professionals about how to manage my heart rate in the gym and they do not seem to know The only advice from one consultant was that he would not worry if it goes to a very high level as long as it comes down "to normal" again when you stop exercising!

Accurate measuring is difficult with AF...........what devices are accurate with AF? I find that my MIO watch shows a very different figure to those on the exercise machines. Both can display 180+ at times when my max should be 158. My heart rate seems to not follow a pattern and it is sometimes slow to react in both directions.

Overall, tiredness is something that does affect me.

But I'm convinced that going to the gym helps.

Does anyone know of guidelines on heart rate control or management when exercising?

20 Replies
Judydiane profile image

My cardio encourages exercise....as for limits....he says I can go up to the speed or effort that allows me to still have a conversation, or sing a song.......I guess he means just not to get breathless. I do a couple miles on a treadmill...at about 3 miles per hour.

As for getting an accurate heart rate while exercizing.....my afib makes it impossible.

BobD profile image

few devices are capable of accurate readings if you are in AF. Best advice if you must exercise is to listen to your body and not overdo things. Slow down when you feel tired and allow plenty of time for recovery.

Beancounter profile image

Hi RickyM

Are you on beta blockers or calcium channel blockers? Only if you are I discovered why my heart rate suddenly jumps when exercising. I start at my resting 65 or so, and then nothing nothing, 130 almost immediately.

Apparently the drugs I mention work by blocking adrenalin from speeding up your heart rate, as you exercise then the adrenalin builds up and it suddenly overcomes the beta blockers and then your heart races.

I do exercise with persistent AF, not enough, not often enough but I do and use a heart rand chest band, which is not very accurate. Gym machines are wildly inaccurate with AF.

I say exercise within reason, you know your body and can soon get used to your heart rate.

Be well


RickyM profile image

Thanks Guys,

I'm on Digoxin and Rivaroxaban.

Most say that Digoxin is unsuitable if you want to exercise but other blockers have given various side effects.

Perhaps I need my meds reviewed again.

Thanks for all your comments.

I've had surgery to remove benign tumour from my heart and cox maze procedure I've a pacemaker am almost 63 and go to the gym 5/6 days a week. My sense of well being and quality of life needs it . Wouldn't rely on exercise machine readings often say mine is sky high which is impossible as my pacemaker won't go higher than 125 and I'm 99% reliant on it so can't be true. As long as doc says ok and you stop if faint unwell or chest pains the enjoy when you can

in reply to

I used to have a demand pacemaker which stopped my heart going slowly. What stops your heart going faster than 125 with exercise? I'm confused.

in reply to

When it was first fitted for bradycardia on exercise and generally was set at 60 great for doing nothing but as reliant on it my heart rate did not rise so exercise was very limited . So another part activated which will raise my rate up to 125 if needed

in reply to

Well I didn't know that was possible. Does that mean that you can't exercise comfortably at a level that would normally have put your heart rate higher than 125 in the past before you developed your heart problem?

in reply to

I mainly do what I did before AF had 5 yrs off as so debilitated. Only thing I don't seem to be able to do is inclines either natural or treadmill.

RickyM profile image
RickyM in reply to

I can't do anything like I used to do before AF. Inclines as you say and steps or stepping machines are the worst. Jogging is out.

in reply to

Thanks F. I have learned so much already and gained much insight in to my own situation since joining this splendid forum very recently.

in reply to

Ps complex case mine

AFCyclist profile image

I use a chest band heart rate monitor. You can buy a cheap one for £35 from Polar. When I was in AF it recorded my irregular beat at around 80/90 bpm.I then cycled and kept it to 165max. I use it now I am not in AF to keep below 120bpm.

RickyM profile image
RickyM in reply to AFCyclist

My AF is persistent. Currently, with the kit i have, my HR is almost out of control. It does not seem to react quickly enough when I start and is surrisingly high when sometimes on the move. I don't feel it is as fast as the reading.

momist profile image

Hi. I don't know how the exercise machines at the gym work, but the common heart rate monitors which use LEDs are measuring the increase in redness when the heart pumps. The problem with AF is that the capillaries don't necessarily swell with every beat of your heart, as the atrium has not not correctly primed the ventricle, so the beat becomes ineffective, and not counted. This is also why you feel funny while in AF, lower blood supply generally.

If you NEED to measure the actual beats of your heart, then only a machine that detects those electrically (like the Omron or Kardia) will work,but they are not compatible while actually exercising, although you could stop to take a reading on a Kardia.

My view is the same as BobD's on this, go by how you feel, not the numbers.

JamesP profile image

I have had persistent AF since at least 2008, am 78, on warfarin, 5mg amlodipine but declined digoxin because of supposed side effects when exercising. I go to the gym at least twice a week, do Ienga yoga, ride my electric bike, meditate and dance

Nobody knows your body like you do. Listen to everybody whose advice you respect and then take your own advice. Good luck!

RickyM profile image

Thanks again Guys, for your advice and guidance.

I'm new to this forum.

I have been doing my exercise by "feel" for the last 4 years .........but thought I should ask what other experience was out there.

Thanks again.

MtLSteven profile image

There is little published research if any. I have enlarged atria so I've been told weights over my head is out due to creating back pressure into the heart. I have started slow and again. My gym offers Cardiac Rehabilitation classes post MI. My gym programme is based on that. I use this for confidence and to see how I get on.

My experiences with AF have been complicated by the need for surgery and at times cripling effects of cardiac meds so I am been neurotically cautious. I was on an American AF site for a while and this subject came up. Responses were varied but confidence or the lack of it was an important factor in how much exercising happened.

RickyM profile image
RickyM in reply to MtLSteven

Hi MtlSteven,

Sorry to hear about your condition and gym issues. I'm assuming you feel better for gym visits or is it a pain?

GarrBo profile image

This is something that really frightens me and the comments about confidence are definitely true for me. I have been in persistent/permanent AF since I was 39, that's 22 years now. I used to cycle a lot but as I also have trouble with inclines I lack the confidence to start again. I now think of my self as exercise intolerant and try to stay healthy through diet.

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