A recent study presented at the ESC Congress 2023 has revealed a significant connection between physical activity and a reduced risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) and stroke. Atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm disorder globally, affects over 40 million individuals. This research, involving more than 15,000 participants, explored the correlation between fitness levels and the likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation.

The study enrolled individuals who did not have atrial fibrillation and had undergone a treadmill test between 2003 and 2012. With an average age of 55 years and 59 percent being men, the participants’ fitness was measured using the Bruce protocol. This method involves progressively increasing the intensity of exercise on the treadmill. The fitness level was determined by the participants’ energy expenditure, expressed in metabolic equivalents (METs).

During the median follow-up period of 137 months, 515 participants (3.3 percent) developed atrial fibrillation. The findings indicated that each one MET increase achieved during the treadmill test resulted in an 8 percent reduction in the risk of atrial fibrillation. Additionally, the study revealed a 12 percent lower risk of stroke and a 14 percent lower risk of major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE) with each one MET increase.

Based on METs achieved during the treadmill test, participants were categorized into three fitness levels: low (below 8.57 METs), medium (8.57 to 10.72 METs), and high (above 10.72 METs). The results showed that over a five-year period, the likelihood of remaining free from atrial fibrillation was 97.1 percent for the low fitness group, 98.4 percent for the medium fitness group, and 98.4 percent for the high fitness group.

These findings highlight the important role of physical fitness in reducing the risk of atrial fibrillation, stroke, and other adverse cardiovascular events. Regular physical activity and improved fitness appear to contribute significantly to maintaining heart health and preventing these conditions.

Study author Dr Shih-Hsien Sung of the National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, Taipei, Taiwan stated, “This was a large study with an objective measurement of fitness and more than 11 years of follow-up. The findings indicate that keeping fit may help prevent atrial fibrillation and stroke.” 


The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a health advice. We would ask you to consult a qualified professional or medical expert to gain additional knowledge before you choose to consume any product or perform any exercise.

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