Atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter are heart rhythm disorders that can occur in individuals of all ages, including middle-aged and younger individuals who are physically fit and do not have underlying heart disease or medical conditions. However, these conditions are most common in older adults who have or have had coronary artery disease, valvular disease, or other heart disease.
For every 10 years of regular endurance exercise (defined as 30 minutes or more of exercise, three or more times per week) the risk of atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter increases by about 16% and 42%, respectively, Famous athletes such as Billie Jean King and Larry Bird have also developed atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter, with some athlete’s developing the disorder as young as 30 to 40 years old.
The link between exercise and arrhythmias was first noted in 1927, when Bourne observed frequent premature ventricular beats in patients with suspected coronary artery disease as they exercised. In 1932, Wilson et al reported the first case of ventricular tachycardia initiated during exercise. Since then, multiple studies have documented the occurrence of exercise-induced arrhythmias, including both supraventricular and ventricular tachyarrhythmias and bradyarrhythmias. Endurance athletes, such as runners, bicyclists, and cross-country skiers, are at an increased risk for exercise-induced arrhythmias. The risk of arrhythmia increases with the intensity and duration of exercise, as well as with the frequency of exercise.
The right ventricle (RV) may be both acutely and chronically stressed during prolonged, intense exercise. Intense exercise can cause right ventricular arrhythmias. In addition to physical activity, genetic and physical factors play a major role in the development of Ventricular Arrhythmias. Like musculoskeletal sports injuries, excessive sporting activity can result in cardiac sports injuries in some people.
Exercise-induced Ventricular Tachycardia(VT) is a potentially lethal arrhythmia that often occurs in individuals with an underlying cardiovascular disease. ECG’s (Electrocardiogram), exercise stress testing, and MRI’s are used in the diagnosis process. VT can be initiated by exercise and emotional stress in patients with structural heart disease or underlying ischemia. Exercise-induced VTs are uncommon in patients without structural heart disease. In patients with structural heart disease, VT can cause dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, and even fainting. It is important to recognize the signs of VT and seek medical attention if it occurs while exercising.
Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia is a regular, rapid (160 to 220 beats per minute) heart rate that starts and stops abruptly, originating in heart tissue that is not the ventricles. The majority of individuals afflicted with the condition experience palpitations, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Generally, A doctor diagnoses the condition using an ECG. Options for treatment involve the use of drugs and medical procedures to lower heart rate and restore the normal rhythm of the heart.
Bradycardia is when your heart beats lower than 60 beats/min. Athletes usually have slower heart rates (20- 40 beats/minute). For most individuals this “training bradycardia” is asymptomatic. That being said, you may develop symptoms like dizziness or syncope later in life. The only treatment for symptomatic bradycardia is the insertion of a pacemaker.
Exercise is essential for physical and mental health but it’s important to be aware of potential risks associated with intense and strenuous exercises. Being aware of the different types of arrhythmias that may occur during exercise — such as atrial fibrillation (AFib), ventricular tachycardia (VT), supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), and Bradycardia — as well as knowing how to recognize their signs and symptoms can help keep you safe while exercising. If you experience any concerning symptoms while exercising, seek medical attention right away.
Though exercise is one of the best ways to improve your overall health, there are ways to do it that damage your cardiac functioning. Using a smart heart monitor like the Frontier X2, which is able to give you detailed, accurate data as you workout, will help you ensure that your physical training is indeed improving your heart health!
Whether or not it is safe to exercise with an irregular heartbeat depends on the specific type and severity of the arrhythmia, as well as any underlying health conditions you may have. If you have an irregular heartbeat it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting or continuing an exercise program.
Exercise-induced arrhythmias are abnormal heart rhythms that occur during or shortly after physical activity. The symptoms of exercise-induced arrhythmias can vary depending on the type and severity of the arrhythmia. Some common symptoms of exercise-induced arrhythmias may include: rapid or irregular heartbeat, chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness or dizziness.
There are several factors that can increase the risk of developing an exercise-induced arrhythmia. These include: age, underlying health conditions, family history, and frequency of exercise. Older adults are at an increased risk of developing exercise-induced arrhythmias. Certain medical conditions, such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, and high blood pressure, can increase the risk of exercise-induced arrhythmias.
In most cases, exercise-induced arrhythmias are benign and do not indicate a serious underlying health problem. These arrhythmias can often be managed with lifestyle modifications and may resolve on their own over time. However, in some cases, exercise-induced arrhythmias can be serious and may require medical attention. For example, certain types of arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia, can increase the risk of stroke or other cardiovascular events if not properly managed. If you experience any unusual heart rhythms or symptoms during or after exercise, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Exercise-induced arrhythmias are usually diagnosed through a combination of medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic testing. Some common tests used to diagnose exercise-induced arrhythmias include: Electrocardiogram (ECG), Holter monitor and exercise stress test.
Some heart rate monitors and fitness trackers are equipped with sensors that can monitor your heart rhythm during exercise. These devices can be useful for tracking your heart rate and helping you to gauge the intensity of your workout.
Other Heart Health Topics To Explore:
Exercise for Heart Health | Cycling for Healthy Heart | Normal Resting Heart Rate | Devices to Monitor Heart Rate | Irregular Heartbeat | AFib and Heart | Post Covid 19 Symptoms | Benefits of Endurance Training | Heart Rate Monitor Device