Effect of years of endurance exercise on risk of atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter

Am J Cardiol. 2014 Oct 15;114(8):1229-33. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2014.07.047. Epub 2014 Jul 30.


Emerging evidence suggests that endurance exercise increases the risk for atrial fibrillation (AF) in men, but few studies have investigated the dose-response relation between exercise and risk for atrial arrhythmias. Both exposure to exercise and reference points vary among studies, and previous studies have not differentiated between AF and atrial flutter. The aim of this study was to assess the risk for atrial arrhythmias by cumulative years of regular endurance exercise in men. To cover the range from physical inactivity to long-term endurance exercise, the study sample in this retrospective cohort study was based on 2 distinct cohorts: male participants in a long-distance cross-country ski race and men from the general population, in total 3,545 men aged ≥ 53 years. Arrhythmia diagnoses were validated by electrocardiograms during review of medical records. Regular endurance exercise was self-reported by questionnaire. A broad range of confounding factors was available for adjustment. The adjusted odds ratios per 10 years of regular endurance exercise were 1.16 (95% confidence interval 1.06 to 1.29) for AF and 1.42 (95% confidence interval 1.20 to 1.69) for atrial flutter. In stratified analyses, the associations were significant in cross-country skiers and in men from the general population. In conclusion, cumulative years of regular endurance exercise were associated with a gradually increased risk for AF and atrial flutter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / etiology
  • Atrial Fibrillation / physiopathology
  • Atrial Flutter / epidemiology*
  • Atrial Flutter / etiology
  • Atrial Flutter / physiopathology
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Risk Factors
  • Skiing / physiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors