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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What exercises are best for someone who has atrial fibrillation?

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    Luke Delvecchio

    Diabetes Educator, Exercise Physiologist, Nutritionist

    Specializing in the assessment and treatment of metabolism related weight disorders. View Profile

    Someone with atrial fibrillation should follow a basic prescribed model of rugged exercise, which is large, rhythmical movements, such as walking, bike riding, rowing, or swimming. So these are all examples of rugged activity. And generally they should undertake these activities three days a week, starting at 20 minutes, and they should do these activities at an effort that would be considered a moderate intensity, which means they should be able to conduct these exercises and still talk, but broken speech. So talk, but not sing, is what we often say.

    And after completing 20 minutes, 3 days a week, for a few weeks, they should slowly build up the durational time that they conduct these activities for. They should also conduct strength exercise or strengthening exercises, and these can be conducted two to three days a week. Strength exercises include light weights, with higher repetitions, so around 10 repetitiions. And then once they're comfortable completing 10 with a certain load, they can increase the amount of repetitions to 12, and then slowly increase the load. But they're not advised to lift weights that don't allow them to complete any less than eight repetitions.

    Finally, people with atrial fibrillation should also stretch or conduct flexibility training, and they should stretch all the major muscle groups that they use in these exercises. So if they swim, they should stretch the upper body, and if they walk or ride a bike, they should stretch the lower body. These stretches should be held for 20 seconds to a point of mild discomfort, and the goal of the stretches, of course, is to increase their range of motion.

    These are the three major modalities that would have the most benefit to someone with atrial fibrillation.

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