Exercise and Inherited Arrhythmias

Can J Cardiol. 2016 Apr;32(4):452-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cjca.2016.01.007. Epub 2016 Jan 14.


Sudden cardiac death (SCD) in an apparently healthy individual is a tragedy that prompts a series of investigations to identify the cause of death and to prevent SCD in potentially at-risk family members. Several inherited channelopathies and cardiomyopathies, including long QT syndrome (LQTS), catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular cardiomyopathy (CPVT), hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), and arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) are associated with exercise-related SCD. Exercise restriction has been a historical mainstay of therapy for these conditions. Syncope and cardiac arrest occur during exercise in LQTS and CPVT because of ventricular arrhythmias, which are managed with β-blockade and exercise restriction. Exercise may provoke hemodynamic or ischemic changes in HCM, leading to ventricular arrhythmias. ARVC is a disease of the desmosome, whose underlying disease process is accelerated by exercise. On this basis, expert consensus has erred on the side of caution, recommending rigorous exercise restriction for all inherited arrhythmias. With time, as familiarity with inherited arrhythmia conditions has increased and patients with milder forms of disease are diagnosed, practitioners have questioned the historical rigorous restrictions advocated for all. This change has been driven by the fact that these are often children and young adults who wish to lead active lives. Recent evidence suggests a lower risk of exercise-related arrhythmias in treated patients than was previously assumed, including those with previous symptoms managed with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. In this review, we emphasize shared decision making, monitored medical therapy, individual and team awareness of precautions and emergency response measures, and a more permissive approach to recreational and competitive exercise.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac* / congenital
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac* / epidemiology
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac* / prevention & control
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / epidemiology
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / prevention & control*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test / methods
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Primary Prevention / methods*
  • Survival Rate / trends