Atrial fibrillation is associated with different levels of physical activity levels at different ages in men

Heart. 2014 Jul;100(13):1037-42. doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2013-305304. Epub 2014 May 14.


Objective: This study examines the influence of physical activity at different ages and of different types, on the risk of developing atrial fibrillation (AF) in a large cohort of Swedish men.

Methods: Information about physical activity was obtained from 44 410 AF-free men, aged 45-79 years (mean age=60), who had completed a self-administered questionnaire at baseline in 1997. Participants reported retrospectively their time spent on leisure-time exercise and on walking or bicycling throughout their lifetime (at 15, 30 and 50 years of age, and at baseline (mean age=60)). Participants were followed-up in the Swedish National Inpatient Register for ascertainment of AF. Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to estimate relative risks (RR) with 95% CIs, adjusted for potential confounders.

Results: During a median follow-up of 12 years, 4568 cases of AF were diagnosed. We observed a RR of 1.19 (95% CI 1.05 to 1.36) of developing AF in men who at the age of 30 years had exercised for >5 h/week compared with <1 h/week. The risk was even higher (RR 1.49, 95% CI 1.14 to 1.95) among the men who exercised >5 h/week at age 30 and quit exercising later in life (<1 h/week at baseline). Walking/bicycling at baseline was inversely associated with risk of AF (RR 0.87, 95% CI 0.77 to 0.97 for >1 h/day vs almost never) and the association was similar after excluding men with previous coronary heart disease or heart failure at baseline (corresponding RR 0.88, 95% CI 0.77 to 0.998).

Conclusions: Leisure-time exercise at younger age is associated with an increased risk of AF, whereas walking/bicycling at older age is associated with a decreased risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / diagnosis
  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / physiopathology
  • Atrial Fibrillation / prevention & control
  • Bicycling
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Registries
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden
  • Time Factors
  • Walking