Exercise and AFib: In today's paper. This... - AF Association

AF Association

22,817 members27,660 posts

Exercise and AFib

Physalis profile image

In today's paper. This does not surprise me one bit!

dailymail.co.uk/news/articl...

52 Replies
BobD profile image
BobDVolunteer

Old news. Bless the daily fail. Fighter pilots are another group as we know.

I do wish they would stop calling it a fatal condition though. AF alone does not generally kill people!

Jaws66 profile image
Jaws66 in reply to BobD

Plus it has the usual tabloid technique of ignoring the fact that 2.5 times a small risk is a still a small risk, but the rate of ill health from not exercising is much greater.

Physalis profile image
Physalis in reply to Jaws66

I think the article does say that exercise is good and I agree with that totally, it is when people over-exercise that it becomes bad.

Physalis profile image
Physalis in reply to BobD

It may be old news but on this forum there are so many people, for whom exercise is very important. Not just a bit of exercise, they want to push themselves to do better and better, walk further, improve their performance, running, cycling, on the road or down the gym.

I've thought for some time that AFib starts because the body comes under stress and the brain, nervous system decides that a few extra beats will help. The more it needs to help the more signals are sent to speed the heart up.

You can alter your lifestyle, what you eat and I do agree this will help but the one thing that is important is to not put your body under severe stress.

There was another article I read last week about the number of elite athletes who developed motor neurone disease.

Maybe Bob the reason you haven't had AFib since your last ablation is that your life has changed and is a lot easier now. Or maybe not!!

BobD profile image
BobDVolunteer in reply to Physalis

Sadly no! If anything it is more stressful since my wife retired two years ago and started finding so many jobs for me. I did have a good ten year run of freedom.lol 😁 Back to plumbing now.

Physalis profile image
Physalis in reply to BobD

But did you have short periods of excess stress before that. Surely a few jobs keeps you active so no bad thing. One of my sons is tiling a shower room. I asked why he didn't get a tiler to do it but I suppose it's good exercise.

BobD profile image
BobDVolunteer in reply to Physalis

When we ran the race team I had two jobs and lived on 4 hours sleep a night for ten years. Weekends probably less. I packed the team up in 88 to have our family and then retired from my day job at 52 in 97. Not diganosed with AF till 2004.

Physalis profile image
Physalis in reply to BobD

Maybe, like me, you were diagnosed then but it could have begun much earlier. I was told I had ectopics in 1996 but no-one said anything about AFib until 2013.

Wanderer22 profile image
Wanderer22 in reply to Physalis

I got afib first in 2011. My exercise regime had doubled the size of my heart. I am convinced that brought on afib as i had no other issues. So i reduced exercise and so far i have not had another episode. I guess i will as i age ( i am 61). I now exercise more gently eg using an electric bike. My heart is back to normal size

BobD profile image
BobDVolunteer in reply to Physalis

I think that as we get older our ablility to deal with s**t reduces exponentially. Things that one shrugs off at 40 do affect us more at 60 and even more at 70+. Conflict I find particularly hard ( I was brought up with the "please me" driver) so good outcomes are very important to me. The fact that life is not so convenient becomes more obvious as we age.

Physalis profile image
Physalis in reply to BobD

I feel just the opposite. As I've got older, nothing bothers me that much.

For me life is much more convenient, food deliveries, anything else I want comes next day from Amazon, I can read the Daily Mail and the Telegraph online, I can Skype my children and even grandchildren.

Having been brought up with no double glazing, gas central heating, washing machines, dishwashers, computers, television, fridges etc, I appreciate these things. Living through the forties and fifties with food rationing and nothing much in the shops to buy, by comparison life seems quite luxurious these days.

However, I suppose, it's just a matter of luck whether life gets you down or not. I like to get things done and make life better for my family but I am by no means a perfectionist. There is conflict in my family but, maybe partly because of the pandemic this past year, it doesn't bother me. I am sure a lot of people would be climbing up the wall by now because of it but I'm just not made that way.

Which is lucky!

beach_bum profile image
beach_bum in reply to Physalis

I hear ya! I used to scour the news, worry about crossing the t's and dotting the i's, OCD about perfection. After the kids were gone and I retired I mellowed in a hurry and the older I get, the more "meh" I am about things that used to wind me up. Like you, I fully embrace modern conveniences, I do try and support local as much as possible, but we live in a farming and fishing village, so Amazon is our pal 😋 I have so many friends that send me "oh the good old days" and "geezer" memes, and I think to myself, they weren't that good lol. I guess they forgot polio, the cold war, crappy..* oh I'm sorry...classic cars, shabby building codes, smoking in shops, planes, trains, restaurants...the list is long.

I stay away from news...like my wife says...."if I can't see it from my porch"....my outlook these days? "I used to be disgusted, now I'm just amused" And we live just a short drive/sail from the massive never-ending "Barnum and Bailey show" south of us. My inbox used to be flooded with news clippings and alarmist comments or links from my many relatives who live there...I eventually had to politely ask them to stop. It is what it is. People need to stop their daily doom scrolling, and get out with the 3D people.

Life is not a dress rehearsal.

jgolay profile image
jgolay in reply to BobD

Well said! Gave me a chuckle.

Singwell profile image
Singwell in reply to BobD

Too true! And I agree about being very sensitive to stress if one is driven to please others. Still learning it doesn't work to put yourself last chez moi.

beach_bum profile image
beach_bum in reply to Physalis

I know eh. How many times do we have to be told... everything.in.moderation. I don't "excercise" , hiking and cycling are like breathing and eating to me. I just do it because It is part of my daily life. I actually increased my distance and cadence *with doctors approval of course* and my BP and HR...which was not terrible, has improved. The most enjoyable stat is the recovery interval...the time it takes from max HR.

Keep in mind, not everyone with afib can safely exercise safely, as many other conditions may hinder or be exacerbated, but a dr or therapist would make that assesment.

And no one is "too old" ...I see and chat with many people out on the trails cycling who are in their 70's and 80's. 🙂

BeauBrummel profile image
BeauBrummel in reply to BobD

Typical DM hyperbole. Obviously a slow news day Bob ;-)

Karendeena profile image
Karendeena in reply to BobD

BobD me too, my EP stressed afib is not life threatening but the consequences can be (the stroke if not managed)

This paper sums up what I am saying.

pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/298...

"Regular exercise contributes to improved cardiovascular health and reduced cardiovascular mortality. Previous studies have shown that regular physical activity and high cardiorespiratory fitness both contribute to a reduction in incident atrial fibrillation (AF). However, the risk of AF appears to be paradoxically increased by participation in endurance exercise. Although the mechanisms are not well understood, exercise-induced changes in autonomic tone alongside the development of an arrhythmogenic atrial substrate, appear to contribute to an excess of AF amongst athletes, despite an overall reduction in cardiovascular disease incidence. "

Singwell profile image
Singwell in reply to Physalis

I think the point you're making - if I may suggest - is that we have got the wrong idea about 'exercise'. It has become aligned with prowess and not well being. Elite athletes who train to push their bodies to extremes live a whole lifestyle to support those extremes. It's no good powering away biking or running to extremes and then sinking 4 pints and a curry. I suspect this is the issue. Fitness has become a very marketable product, same as diet. The way we're sold these products do not necessarily lead the health and well being.

Ducky2003 profile image
Ducky2003 in reply to Singwell

Some of those curry containers require a bit of energy to open, to be fair. 😁.

At least I know one thing I didn't do to cause this lol!

Physalis profile image
Physalis in reply to wilsond

Not exercise but what about stress? If I were to guess when mine started it was over twenty years ago when I was facing an almost impossible problem, against time, and something to do with printers. I could feel my heart bumping.

I have never exercised since my schooldays. However, I got an exercise video in about 1996, they were all the range then, and after twenty minutes I sat down and took my pulse. It was skipping a beat!! Ended up at the hospital and the consultant said everything was tickety-boo apart from this heart thing which was no problem either. It was just an extra signal from my heart which came early.

I suppose over the years these extra beats built up and in 2013 when in hospital with something else they said I had AFib. Oh, no, I thought to myself, it's just PVCs. I was wrong. It was a case of ignorance is bliss. Turned out alright in the end though.

Over exercise causes stress in the body, that’s very well known. Trouble is - you try sitting with an elite athlete not allowed to train & see how long you last! Stress is palpable and physical - the mind can also cause stress - which produces physical symptoms.

It really doesn’t matter what the cause of the stress is - it’s how to counter it which is MUCH less talked about and researched and dismissed because it’s much easier and acceptable to research quantatively rather than designing an effective qualitative study.

Over exercising is an addiction & should be treated as such.

Physalis profile image
Physalis in reply to CDreamer

The trouble with sport these days is that getting to the top is more about how hard you train and less about talent.

I didn't live with an elite athlete. My husband was overweight at a time when not many were and trying to get him to lose weight was impossible. He got diabetes and, blow me, lost weight, six stones! Then he started to put it back on again and one day he said, for the first time ever, I know you're right. The next day he died of a heart attack.

Looking at my old school photos only 1 in 25 children was overweight. Sport was for fun for those who liked it, Wimbledon was for amateurs. We ate to live, no-one that I knew of had anorexia.

However, I like now! It's got a lot going for it.

Singwell profile image
Singwell in reply to Physalis

You're 20 years older than me so a different experience but...when I was at school we typically walked 30 minutes twice a day and this was considered completely normal. Dad cycled 8 miles in and out to work every day. As our society became more widely affluent it was expected we'd drive or be driven to school, work, the station. Plus the 1960s welcomed in masses of prepacked convenience foods - all processed to hell and back.

I am shocked by the statistic that "1.4 million people are affected by AFib in the UK".

wilsond profile image
wilsond in reply to saulger

That is just the known cases too... X

saulger profile image
saulger in reply to wilsond

Yes, and because people usually encounter AFib in middle age and above, I would estimate, looking at the UK population curve, that not more than 20 million people are aged 50 and above, adding up to 14% of 50 year olds and above with AFib.Surely, that can't be right...

statista.com/statistics/281...

I wanted to add to Phsialis' comments that I first encountered full blown AFib when training for an indoor rowing event in 2018, although I encountered heart arrhythmia since university days.

Somewhat over egged - anything done to excess is risky.

Physalis profile image
Physalis in reply to AstroFish

This is from the paper I mentioned earlier

"Regular exercise contributes to improved cardiovascular health and reduced cardiovascular mortality. Previous studies have shown that regular physical activity and high cardiorespiratory fitness both contribute to a reduction in incident atrial fibrillation (AF). However, the risk of AF appears to be paradoxically increased by participation in endurance exercise. Although the mechanisms are not well understood, exercise-induced changes in autonomic tone alongside the development of an arrhythmogenic atrial substrate, appear to contribute to an excess of AF amongst athletes, despite an overall reduction in cardiovascular disease incidence. "

Wonder why Miley Cyrus has hr abnormalities.

Physalis profile image
Physalis in reply to Mrverycross

Vegan diet? Only joking. I expect her life has been pretty stressful.

Achey Breaky Heart? 😁

The problem with newspaper articles like this is that they refer to ‘experts’ and quote figures but with no attribution. I would like to know what experts. Are they just YouTube influencers or are they real scientists who have done years of research with thousands of volunteers?

Please see my reply to AstroFish above.

Interesting that they have shifted the 'blame' from endurance sport to other sports.One problem is that fit people are more likely to notice an arrythmia than others (various reasons including doing vigorous stuff, being in touch with what is their normal, using high tech kit) and so it's more likely to be reported. I've read that many thousands of people have undiagnosed Afib mainly older, sedentary people which would obviously skewer the figures.

Also much of the research does not include women!

Interesting read all the same.

Physalis profile image
Physalis in reply to Jajarunner

From another paper The ambiguity of physical activity, exercise and atrial fibrillation

pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/294...

This has led to the hypothesis that the mechanisms underlying an increased risk of atrial fibrillation with intensive exercise are different from those underlying a reduced risk with moderate physical activity, possibly linked to distinctive characteristics of the population under study. High volumes of exercise over many years performed by lean, healthy endurance trained athletes may lead to cardiac (patho)physiological alterations involving the autonomic nervous system and remodelling of the heart. The mechanisms underlying a reduced risk of atrial fibrillation with light and moderate physical activity may involve a distinctive pathway, as physical activity can potentially reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation through favourable effects on cardiovascular risk factors.

Most women are probably less likely to be addicted to extreme exercise. Because having to juggle job , children , caring for aged parents not to mention the extra burdens of the pandemic like home schooling does not give them time for it. Young women who are addicted to exercise probably have less of these responsibilities and haven't been exercising extemely long enough for afib to show up . Men also tend to be more competitive with others or improving their personal best.

It is true that many women have other responsibilities but we don't know about Afib in females because the studies are not being done, or women are in miniscule numbers. This is true throughout medical research and is one of the reasons women have more side effects to drugs (,because they are all tested on white men!). The same for non white ethnic groups too.

This does not surprise me. It is quite noticeable even here that women posters complain far more about the side effects of the drugs that we get prescribed than the men do. Women are supposed to be included in clinical trials these days but anything licensed before 1995 probably was not tested on women. Even now there is no sex differentiation in reporting of adverse effects.

CDreamer profile image
CDreamer in reply to Jajarunner

Spot on. There is emerging evidence that symptoms of heart attack are so different in women and especially black women that it is often missed or dismissed because doesn’t fit the profile - research based on white male patients.

Physalis profile image
Physalis in reply to Auriculaire

Yes, I think, on the whole, women have got more sense. However, having said that, one of my grandsons runs a spin class. I have just looked at the photos of the instructors, five are men and four are women.

CDreamer profile image
CDreamer in reply to Physalis

I competed against my then husband - and I trained a lot more to do so! I don’t think there is the difference in opportunity to do sport between sexes that there used to be. A lot more equality - I see my sons do more childcare & chores than their wives!

However, I can say that I was the exception in my sport of dinghy racing in my time - being one of only 3 female helms in the dinghy class I sailed.

The point I got from reading all the studies is that moderate exercise in our later years is good - pushing yourself to excel in extreme, endurance sport after 30 really is tempting fate.

Our grandson l, elite athlete & double Olypian, who qualified for Tokyo has had to withdraw - at 31 his body is now wrecked. It’s that ‘pushing through the pain’ attitude which needs to be reversed.

Physalis profile image
Physalis in reply to CDreamer

Yes, I agree with you. One of my grandsons might have been a professional rugby player, played in four finals at Twickenham, but wasn't good enough so I feel that was just as well. One of my granddaughters also played a lot of rugby.

Don't know where they got it from, some of my worst memories were playing hockey on freezing cold days in an aertex shirt. Actually playing hockey at any time was one of my least favourite lessons, followed by swimming in an outdoor pool in March.

I seem to have got through the rest of my life doing no 'exercise' at all and my heart seems in quite good shape so it didn't matter after all.

Camelia23 profile image
Camelia23 in reply to Physalis

Love your memories Physalis as many are similar to mine especially playing hockey in the aertex shirt. The pe teacher kept yelling "Run girl, run!" And I did till I thought my heart would burst. Made it to the team the best part of which was the orange quarters served at half time. Must stop rambling!

The difficult thing to understand is how much is too much. A study I saw recently was talking about TEN times recommend levels ie 12;to 25 HOURS per week of VIGOROUS exercise! That'd be a slow runner doing 150 miles per week, a fat runner doing 250 miles! Which is impossible due to overuse injuries in running, which is maybe why top cyclists seem probe to arrythmias (as they don't get so injured so can do more)!

CDreamer profile image
CDreamer in reply to Jajarunner

My view is to listen to your body, everybody’s capacity will be unique. You are the expert on you. The only times I’ve hurt myself exercising was when I had a coach pushing me and I didn’t say - no, my body says no!

In my teens I played badminton at county level. In my 20’s squash at inter club level (could arrange around childcare obligations), in my 30’s & 40’s dinghy sailing, 50’s & 60’s were spent swimming, diving, Yachting.

My 70’s - Crown Bowls! Today I played Lead against a very fit 89 year old. Our team won but the satisfaction was from being outdoors, socializing amongst lovely, like minded people and I got a bit of different types of exercise, we adjust our expectations!

Physalis profile image
Physalis in reply to CDreamer

Oh, you are so opposite to me!

CDreamer profile image
CDreamer in reply to Physalis

I’ll second that but variety is spice of life

This may be old news, but it has taken me over 3 years to figure out that my paroxysmal Afib does better with more moderate exercise. I switched from running 5 miles twice a week to 2 miles 1 - 2 times a week and daily 1.5 mile brisk walks .

CDreamer profile image
CDreamer in reply to Restcfo1

Takes time to adapt.

Interesting read. Stress is my biggest bugbear. I'm very good at telling people how to cope with that but not so good at practising it myself.

You may also like...