I Have Atrial Fibrillation: How Active Can I Be?
You probably have questions about how atrial fibrillation (AFib) will affect your day-to-day life. Some people fear that exercising, having sex or engaging in physical tasks at home or at work might trigger an AFib episode or hurt their heart.
The good news is that, in general, it’s perfectly safe—and beneficial—to stay physically active while living with AFib. But everyone’s different, so talk with your doctor about finding the right level of activity for you.
Activity is Good for Managing AFib
Studies show that compared with people with AFib who do not exercise, those who do:
- have fewer AFib episodes,
- go to the hospital less often, and
- report a better quality of life
One recent study found that people with AFib who exercised regularly had a significantly lower risk of death from cardiovascular causes. This finding held true even after researchers took into account gender, age and stroke risk.
“Patients often tell me that they plan on stopping certain activities because they’re worried they’re going to hurt their heart. But the health benefits of exercise are clear, both in preventing coronary artery disease and helping them live longer.”
, MD, MHS, associate director, University of Washington Center for Sports Cardiology
People with AFib often worry about whether they can continue:
- Exercising (swimming, jogging and brisk walking)
- Having sex
- Caring for young kids
Don’t skimp on staying active. Talk with your doctor about what’s best for you.
More Reasons to Exercise
Regular physical activity can help you:
Strengthen your heart. When you exercise, your heart works harder, your blood vessels open and how well your blood moves throughout your body improves. This helps protect against other heart conditions, such as heart failure, that can develop in people with AFib.
Lose weight. Studies s how that losing weight can help ease symptoms and episodes of AFib in some people. Coupled with a heart-healthy eating plan, being physically active can help you shed extra pounds.
Reduce stress. Stress makes AFib worse. Exercise is a natural stress-buster, so find the time to get moving each day, whether at home, at work or at the gym. Embrace finding your inner calm. Activities focused on deep breathing, such as yoga, have been shown to be particularly beneficial for stress reduction.
Feel better. Moving your body boosts feel-good hormones and tends to set you on the right path to make healthy food choices. Regular exercise can help you sleep better and even improve your sex drive.
Published: September 2017
Medical Reviewers: John Catanzaro, MD, FACC; Jordan M. Prutkin, MD, FACC