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.
Studies show that compared with people with AFib who do not exercise, those who do:
People with AFib often worry about whether they can continue:
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:
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:
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.)