1. Oesterle, Adam MD
  2. Giancaterino, Shaun MD
  3. Van Noord, Megan G. MS
  4. Pellegrini, Cara N. MD
  5. Fan, Dali MD
  6. Srivatsa, Uma N. MD
  7. Amsterdam, Ezra A. MD


Purpose: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is associated with the comorbidities of a sedentary lifestyle. Endurance athletes also show an increased incidence of AF. The role of exercise in the treatment of AF is unknown so this study aimed to examine the effects of supervised exercise on AF.


Methods: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) examining supervised exercise training in participants with AF was performed. The primary outcome was AF recurrence and burden. Secondary outcomes included AF symptoms, quality of life, and cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF).


Results: Thirteen RCTs, involving 1155 participants, were included. Paroxysmal AF was present in 34% and persistent AF in 64%. The types of exercise were diverse and included cardiac rehabilitation (64%), aerobic training (7%), Qi Gong (4%), interval training (11%), and yoga (15%). Exercise training reduced AF recurrence (relative risk = 0.77: 95% CI, 0.60-0.99), improved quality of life in 5 of the 10 components of the Short Form 36 survey, and improved CRF (standardized mean difference [SMD] = 0.56: 95% CI, 0.27-0.85). The AF burden was reduced only in studies that included continuous ambulatory monitoring (SMD =-0.49: 95% CI, -0.96 to -0.01) but not when all studies were included (SMD =-0.12: 95% CI, -0.61 to 0.38). There was no difference in adverse events between exercise and control.


Conclusions: Supervised exercise training is safe, reduces AF recurrence, and improves quality of life and CRF in participants with AF. Further large RCTs with ambulatory monitoring and robust exercise regimens are needed to assess the effects of exercise training on AF burden and AF symptoms.