Exercise Decreases Atrial Fibrillation Risks

Atrial fibrilliation risks and symptoms can be reduced with regular exercise

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) For those with atrial fibrillation, a regular mild exercise program can improve their overall health and well-being. It can also decrease the likelihood of some at-risk populations developing this condition.

A recent study found that moderate physical activity improved atrial fibrillation patient’s quality of life. And this exercise helped patients lower heart rates, improve circulation and carry out daily activities with ease.

Atrial fibrillation is a very common condition and involves an irregular heartbeat, which can lead to heart attacks or strokes.

"Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program."

Nicholas B. Giacomantonio of Dalhousie University's Department of Cardiology in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and colleagues led the study to determine if physical activity had any health benefit for people with atrial fibrillation, or with those populations that could be at risk of developing it.

The researchers reviewed literature and identified 1056 articles that looked at the health outcomes of people with or without atrial fibrillation and if they participated in regular physical activity. From there, the authors chose 36 articles to include in their study.

Several forms of physical activity were included in the review: aerobic, resistance training and stretching. The articles examined had either an exercise training program, results of a single exercise activity and those that self-reported exercise and outcomes. Health benefits were measured using exercise endurance, ability to carry out activities of daily living and quality of life.

Results suggest that moderate exercise led to positive health benefits for people with atrial fibrillation, which makes their quality of life better. It also improved physical endurance up to 46 percent.

High-risk populations, such as the elderly and pre-cardiac surgery patients were found to have a reduction of the risk of developing atrial fibrillation when they participated in regular physical activity. Researchers also looked at the general population and results suggested intense long-term exercise was associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation reported cases.

The study authors noted that there is limited research on both moderate and intense exercise and the impact of AF. Future research should look at the long-term impact and outcomes.

This study was published by the Canadian Journal of Cardiology in 2012. It was funded by the Canadian Association of of Cardiac Rehabilitation, Boehringer-Ingelheim Canada, Ltd., and the Systematic Reviews Research Unit at the University of British Columbia. The authors disclosed no conflict of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 10, 2012
Last Updated:
February 12, 2013