According to Weng et al., (2017) Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is the most common arrhythmia in the world.


An arrhythmia refers to a problem with the heart rate or rhythm. We understand that the lifetime risk for developing AF is 1 in 3 after the age of 55.


There are four classes of AF:

  • Paroxysmal (lasting less than 7 days)
  • Persistent (lasting longer than 7 days)
  • Long-standing Persistent (lasting longer than 12 months)
  • Permanent (AF is accepted with no focus on rhythm control).


Risk factors for developing AF include:

  • Obesity
  • Hypertension
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnoea
  • Hyperlipidaemia


Research shows that exercise is highly effective in controlling and preventing the risk factors for atrial fibrillation.

By incrementally improving cardiorespiratory fitness, many studies have shown an improvement in:

  • Stroke risk
  • Obesity levels
  • Fasting insulin levels
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Blood pressure
  • Specific inflammatory markers.
  • Overall quality of life.


By improving these risk factors, research is showing that we can not only reduce the risk of developing AF, but we can actually improve AF burden and reverse AF entirely.


So how much exercise should you be doing?


Current research shows that those with AF should be exercising 3-5 times per week at a moderate intensity. Exercise should focus on cardiorespiratory fitness, with some resistance based exercise included.

In total, those with AF should aim to exercise for longer than 210 minutes per week to see the most benefits.

These are some factors you should consider:


If you have AF and wish to start exercising, there are some things to consider and to talk to your GP about:


  1. The type of medications you are on and how the effects your heart rate.
  2. Have you had any surgical procedures lately?
  3. Do you have a Pacemaker or have you had an ablasion previously?
  4. What is your current resting blood pressure?

Some take home messages:


  1. Exercise is safe and encouraged for those with AF, it can help save your life.
  2. Exercise should form part of your primary treatment plan.
  3. Aim for over 210 minutes of aerobic exercise each week.
  4. The most important thing is that you just get started!


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