Physical activity and atrial fibrillation: Data from wearable fitness trackers

Heart Rhythm. 2020 May;17(5 Pt B):842-846. doi: 10.1016/j.hrthm.2020.02.013.


Background: Regular physical activity is an important determinant of cardiovascular health and quality of life. Previous investigations examining the association between exercise and atrial fibrillation (AF) have been limited by self-reported, retrospectively collected activity data.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to objectively quantify differences in daily physical activity among individuals with and those without AF using electronic wearable activity trackers.

Methods: Daily exercise data were directly obtained from wrist-worn activity trackers (Fitbit, San Francisco, CA) among participants in the Health eHeart (HeH) study. Average daily step count was compared between individuals with and those without AF both before and after adjusting for comorbidities. AF severity was quantified using the Atrial Fibrillation Effect on QualiTy of Life (AFEQT) survey.

Results: Among 171,284 HeH study participants, 3333 individuals (234 with AF [7%]) submitted activity data. In unadjusted analysis, AF participants ambulated an average of 723 fewer steps per day (95% confidence interval [CI] 292-1154; P = .001) compared to individuals without AF. After adjustment for demographics and comorbid diseases, participants with AF demonstrated 591 fewer steps per day (95% CI 149-1033; P = .009). Among AF patients, AF severity was associated with less physical activity. For each single point decrease in AFEQT score (corresponding to more symptomatic AF), physical activity decreased by a mean 24 steps per day (95% CI 1-46; P = .04).

Conclusion: Objective, automatically collected step count data demonstrate that individuals with AF engage in significantly less average daily physical activity. In addition, worsening AF symptom severity is associated with reduced daily exercise.

Keywords: Atrial fibrillation; Exercise; Fitness tracker; Physical activity; Step count.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accelerometry / instrumentation*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / diagnosis*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / physiopathology
  • Equipment Design
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fitness Trackers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires