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Can J Cardiol. 2013 Apr;29(4):483-91. doi: 10.1016/j.cjca.2012.07.003. Epub 2012 Nov 28.

A systematic review of the health benefits of exercise rehabilitation in persons living with atrial fibrillation.

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Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.



This systematic review sought to evaluate critically the health benefits of physical activity among persons with atrial fibrillation (AF). AF is increasing in Western society. While health benefits of physical activity are well established, benefits of physical activity among individuals with AF are not clearly identified.


Literature was retrieved systematically through searching electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane), cross-referencing, and drawing on the authors' knowledge. Identified original research articles evaluated health benefits of physical activity among persons with AF or effects of physical activity on AF incidence. From 1056 individual citations, 36 eligible articles were identified.


Moderate-intensity physical activity was found to improve exercise capacity, quality of life, and the ability to carry out activities of daily living among persons with AF (n = 6). Increased incidence of AF was not associated with physical activity among the general population (n = 2), although long-term vigorous endurance exercise may be associated with increased incidence of AF (n = 7), and greater risks may be associated with high-intensity physical activity among those with AF (n = 2). Moderate-intensity physical activity among individuals with AF does not adversely alter training outcomes, functional capacity, morbidity, or mortality compared with those in sinus rhythm (n = 12). Physical activity may improve management and treatment of AF (n = 6) and, among at-risk populations, may reduce incidence of AF (n = 3).


In conclusion, moderate-intensity physical activity should be encouraged among persons with or at risk of AF. Further research is needed.

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