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Eur Heart J. 2020 Jan 17. pii: ehz897. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehz897. [Epub ahead of print]

Association between physical activity and risk of incident arrhythmias in 402 406 individuals: evidence from the UK Biobank cohort.

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Centre for Heart Rhythm Disorders, University of Adelaide and Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide SA 5000, Australia.
Sports Cardiology Laboratory, Baker Heart & Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Victoria 3004, Australia.



Physical activity reduces cardiovascular disease burden and mortality, although its relationship with cardiac arrhythmias is less certain. The aim of this study was to assess the association between self-reported physical activity and atrial fibrillation (AF), ventricular arrhythmias and bradyarrhythmias, across the UK Biobank cohort.


We included 402 406 individuals (52.5% female), aged 40-69 years, with over 2.8 million person-years of follow-up who underwent self-reported physical activity assessment computed in metabolic equivalent-minutes per week (MET-min/wk) at baseline, detailed physical assessment and medical history evaluation. Arrhythmia episodes were diagnosed through hospital admissions and death reports. Incident AF risk was lower amongst physically active participants, with a more pronounced reduction amongst female participants [hazard ratio (HR) for 1500 vs. 0 MET-min/wk: 0.85, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.74-0.98] than males (HR for 1500 vs. 0 MET-min/wk: 0.90, 95% CI 0.82-1.0). Similarly, we observed a significantly lower risk of ventricular arrhythmias amongst physically active participants (HR for 1500 MET-min/wk 0.78, 95% CI 0.64-0.96) that remained relatively stable over a broad range of physical activity levels between 0 and 2500 MET-min/wk. A lower AF risk amongst female participants who engaged in moderate levels of vigorous physical activity was observed (up to 2500 MET-min/wk). Vigorous physical activity was also associated with reduced ventricular arrhythmia risk. Total or vigorous physical activity was not associated with bradyarrhythmias.


The risk of AF and ventricular arrhythmias is lower amongst physically active individuals. These findings provide observational support that physical activity is associated with reduced risk of atrial and ventricular arrhythmias.


Atrial fibrillation; Bradyarrhythmias; Exercise; Physical activity; Ventricular arrhythmias


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