Physical activity and exercise reduce a lot of the known risk factors for atrial fibrillation, like high blood pressure.
Washington: Severely obese people could reduce the risk of developing atrial fibrillation - irregular and often rapid heart rate - with exercise.
"The risk of atrial fibrillation was lower, the more physically active a person was. This turned out to be especially true for people with obesity," said Lars Elnan Garnvik of Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
Obesity is also a well-known risk factor for atrial fibrillation. Garnvik's study showed that people with a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 30 have a significantly higher risk than normal weight individuals. It turns out that the activity levels of obese participants play an important role.
"People who reported that they didn't exercise at all had about double the risk of developing fibrillations, when compared to those who were physically active whose body weight was normal," Garnvik said.
He further explained that obese people who exercised a lot were able to limit the increase in risk to no more than approximately 50 per cent, which suggests that physical activity is good for limiting the increased risk of atrial fibrillation in obese people.
The analysis took into account several other factors that could potentially explain the link. These factors include smoking, alcohol use and previous cardiovascular disease.
"Physical activity and exercise reduce a lot of the known risk factors for atrial fibrillation, like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and chronic inflammation. Physical activity can also improve a person's fitness level, and we know that people in good shape have a reduced risk of heart failure," said Garnvik.
The study has been published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.