Exercise and AFib

Exercise and AFib

Exercising with Atrial Fibrillation

If you have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, or AFib, chances are good that you already know the feelings that often go along with it--pain, discomfort, extreme breathlessness, and exhaustion and usually are on the lookout for their occurrence. Your doctor probably has you on a recovery regimen that includes medication, but exercise remains one of the most effective atrial fibrillation treatments and a way of revving things up and getting you on the course to good health.

Doctor's Orders

Whatever you do, before you do anything, talk to your doctor about what you can do to get yourself on the road to healthy living. Chances are pretty good that your doctor will not only approve of your plan, but he will be leading the cheering section of your effort. He will probably have you go through a battery of tests as precautions, including an electrocardiogram, also called an EKG. An EKG is a test that checks for problems with the electrical activity of your heart.

Once you are cleared by your doctor, he is likely to prescribe some aerobic activity for your rehab program, probably one of the best things you can do for your health, regardless of its status. Rehab specialists will work with you


Once your doctor gives you the go-ahead for an exercise regimen, he will probably give you specific tips to help you. Generally these will include the following:

  • Walk, But Build Up Gradually. If you have AFib, jumping into a strenuous exercise program is probably one of the most dangerous things you can do. This is usually done with high intensity or long workouts. These can trigger the onset of symptoms and should be avoided at all costs. Instead, start slowly with five to 10 minutes each day of walking. From there, add a minute or two each week or so. Your ultimate goal should be to work up to 30 minutes of aerobic activity five days a week.
  • Watch Your Pulse Rate. Your pulse rate is the best indicator of how hard your heart is working at any one time. Your doctor is the best judge of how hard your heart should be working both as you work out and after you are cooling down. You should also let your doctor know if your pulse is too low or too high. Using these figures as guidelines, your doctor will be able to advise you on whether you should increase or decrease your level of exertion. Pushing yourself too hard can result in the return of your symptoms. Be sure to ask your doctor what you can do to bring those figures down.
  • Monitor Yourself. Always remember the best person to judge whether what your body is doing is normal or not is you. If the exercise you are doing causes pain, discomfort, extreme breathlessness, or exhaustion, then stop. And before you try to exercise again, talk to your doctor. You might need more extensive tests to find out what is going on and to determine whether you have more problems.
  • The exact causes of atrial fibrillation are unknown and still being investigated. In the meantime, this article outlines some of the things you can do to help yourself. Between it and your doctor, you will be on the road to better health in no time.