I Have Atrial Fibrillation: How Active Can I Be?
Know What’s Safe for You
AFib affects millions of people, and not every rule applies to every person. Your doctor will help you decide what activity level you should target. This goal will depend on factors such as:
- Your physical condition and your pre-AFib level of activity
- Other health conditions you have
- Medicine you are taking
- Previous surgeries, procedures or devices you have
Keep in mind that certain medications can lower your normal heart rate, so using standard targets set on elliptical machines, treadmills and other exercise equipment may not be accurate for you. Also, these machines, as well as wrist-worn devices don’t always give an accurate reading. Experts say it’s best to use a chest strap, which is similar to an ECG.
If you take a blood thinner, remember these can make bleeding or bruising more likely. You may need to avoid some activities. Also, you should always use protective gear such as a bike helmet, regardless of the law in your state.
Ask your doctor what amount and types of physical activity are safe for you. Start by describing what your fitness level and exercise routines were before you learned you had AFib. Then, you may want to ask the following questions:
- How much exercise should I get each week?
- What level of exertion is OK?
- Which types of exercises are right for me? Are there activities I should avoid?
- Are there activities that might trigger episodes of AFib? If so, what are they?
- What symptoms should I watch for during exercise?
- Is it OK to have sex? (Learn more about arrhythmias and sexual activity.)
- What should my target heart rate be, and will my medications affect my heart rate during exercise?
- How much water should I drink while exercising?
- What about driving or operating heavy machinery?
If you have certain risk factors or other types of heart disease, your doctor may want you to take an exercise stress test before starting a new exercise routine. (Learn more about exercise electrocardiogram.)
Published: September 2017
Medical Reviewers: John Catanzaro, MD, FACC; Jordan M. Prutkin, MD, FACC