You’ve been an avid exerciser your entire life until you were diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation, a condition marked by a quivering or irregular heartbeat. Now you’re worried exercise could be harmful to your health. Should you throw in the towel on working out? Not so fast.
While an AFib diagnosis is cause for concern, physical activity may be the key to improving AFib symptoms and quality of life, according to health experts.
Of course, the more you know about exercising with AFib and what’s appropriate for your individual condition, the better. Here are ten ways to exercise with AFib for a healthy, happy heart:
1. Understand the Benefits of Exercising with AFib
Not only does exercising decrease episodes of arrhythmia in AFib patients, it can help slow heart rate, lower blood pressure, improve mental health, and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.
Studies have shown that AFib patients who exercise also have fewer hospital visits than those who lead sedentary lives. Once you understand these and other benefits of exercising with AFib, you’ll be more encouraged and confident about working out.
2. Get Familiar With Your Form of AFib
There are several types of AFib, and exercise can affect each one differently. For example, if you have paroxysmal AFib, a form that comes and goes, exercising when you’re not in active AFib is important. People with persistent AFib, on the other hand, maybe less concerned with timing and more with doing low-impact exercise.
Familiarize yourself with your diagnosed form of AFib so you can better determine how and when to exercise.
3. Try a Variety of Exercises for AFib
Doing a variety of exercises with AFib can be especially useful because you’ll target different muscle groups, stave off boredom, and be more likely to adhere to a fitness routine. Whether it’s dancing, swimming, biking, strength training, or all the above, as long as your doctor okays your choices, you’re good to go.
Come up with several exercises you enjoy and can tolerate and alternate them throughout the week.
4. Build Up to a Good Pace
Whenever starting any exercise program, always remember to begin slowly. That’s especially crucial when you have AFib, as the heart can react unpredictably if overstressed.
Exercise sessions should be short at first and gradually extend to longer sessions. Start with simple stretching or leisurely walking to get your joints and muscles warmed up. A slow buildup of activity will make exercise more effective, safe, and fun.
5. Tune in While You Exercise
Do you listen to your body when exercising? AFib requires your strict attention. A good way to tune in is to check your pulse. Your doctor should be able to tell you what your heart rate should be while active and resting. Pay heed and aim for those numbers.
Also, note any signals your body is sending that you’re moving too fast or too long. If you can’t speak a full sentence, feel dizzy, or have chest pain, it’s time to take a break from exercise.
6. Grab an Exercise Partner for Safety and Satisfaction
Exercising with someone else is a safety measure that can give you more security while being physically active. If exercising outdoors, where you’re more likely to encounter hazards, it’s extra important to have a partner in case of injury.
Many AFib patients take blood thinners that could cause problems from a fall or other mishaps. Exercising with a partner can also be more satisfying and help time go by quickly.
7. Stay on a Regular Exercise Program
You’ll reap the most rewards from exercise when you do it regularly. AFib patients might set a goal of exercising for 30 minutes a day.
By putting together an exercise plan and sticking to it, you’ll be more likely to make regular exercise a reality as well as an asset for your condition. There’s no one ideal time of day to work out; only the time that best suits your health and lifestyle and encourages you to stay dedicated.
8. Keep Yourself Hydrated
Proper hydration is essential for the health of many organs in the body, including the heart. Drinking enough water is especially critical for AFib patients, who put themselves at increased risk for an arrhythmia event when dehydrated.
How can you tell you might need to drink more? Thirst, dry mouth, and low or dark urine are all signs. Since exercise can deplete water stores, remember to hydrate before, during, and after you work out.
9. Don’t Let AFib Scare off Exercise
AFib attacks can be frightening and make you want to avoid anything that triggers them. Don’t let the worry scare off exercise.
Keep in mind that when you work out responsibly, with caution and common sense, exercise will help rather than harm your heart. Fear, on the other hand, will keep you from being active and taking positive steps to improve your AFib symptoms along with your overall health and well-being.
10. Always Talk to Your Doctor Before Starting an Exercise Program
Once you’ve been given an AFib diagnosis and before you start exercising, be sure to consult with your doctor. He or she can give you the best advice on how to proceed with a fitness routine that will benefit you the most. Getting the green light and guidance from your doctor will also provide a better sense of assurance and safety as you begin a program.
And don’t forget to report any problems or concerns you have while exercising.
Exercising with AFib is a great way to manage symptoms, improve your health, and bolster your quality of life. Don’t let a diagnosis keep you from giving your body a proper workout. You’ll be glad you did, and so will your heart