Individuals with AFib Who Exercise Live Longer: HUNT Study

A new study in the European Heart Journal suggests that people with atrial fibrillation (AFib) who exercise have a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and all-cause mortality.

“Both our research and other research suggests that staying in shape can be even more crucial to health than the level of physical activity,” Dr. Lars Elnan Garnvik, of Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said in a news release. “Our genes determine some of our fitness, but the vast majority of people can improve on their gene pool by exercising properly. This is also the case for individuals with atrial fibrillation,” he says.

The analysis included patient data from the third wave of the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT3) study from 2006 to 2008, which was a large, population-based cohort study in Norway. The current analysis followed 1,117 patients until first occurrence of outcomes or end of follow-up. All participants had confirmed AFib at baseline of the HUNT3 study. The authors then used Cox proportional hazard regression to look at any associations of self-reported physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness and outcomes.

According to the data, individuals with AFib who adhered to physical activity guidelines were reported to have lower risk of all-cause mortality (HR=0.55; 95% CI, 0.41 to 0.75) and CVD mortality (HR=0.54, 95% CI, 0.34 to 0.86) when compared with inactive AFib patients. They also reported that each 1-metabolic equivalent task (MET) higher with estimated cardiorespiratory fitness was linked with lower risk for all-cause mortality, CVD mortality, and morbidity.

“The results show that people with AFib who meet the authorities’ recommendations for physical activity generally live longer than patients who exercise less. They also have almost half the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease,” says Garnvik.

Dr. Garnvik also emphasized the importance of exercising in a way that was effective and influences the fitness level.

“Our research team has repeatedly shown that high-intensity interval training is more effective than moderate exercise for improving fitness,” he said. “This is true for both healthy individuals and people with different types of lifestyle diseases.”