Could high-intensity interval exercise help patients with atrial fibrillation?

Jennifer Reed, BA, BPHE, MEd CS, PhD
Jennifer Reed, BA, BPHE, MEd CS, PhD

A recent study from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute led by Dr. Jennifer Reed, Associate Scientist in the Division of Prevention and Rehabilitation, shows that high-intensity interval training may lead to improved cardiovascular health and fitness for patients with permanent atrial fibrillation. The study has been published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.

Atrial fibrillation is an electrical disorder of the heart which is characterized by a fast, irregular heart rate and affects approximately 350,000 Canadians.  Anyone over the age of 40 years has a 26 % chance of developing this disorder. The UOHI’s study gives researchers new insights into permanent atrial fibrillation which is normally managed with medications. Presently, there are no other treatment options for patients with permanent atrial fibrillation.

“Unlike patients who have had a heart attack or transplant, patients with permanent atrial fibrillation are not referred to cardiac rehabilitation which includes lifestyle counselling and physical activity programming,” said Dr. Reed. “Building on the findings of the study, we have decided to change this and want to examine the impact of different levels of exercise training on cardiovascular health and fitness in patients with atrial fibrillation on a larger scale.”

Dr. Reed’s team is now recruiting up to 100 individuals with persistent or permanent atrial fibrillation from the greater Ottawa community to further her findings through a new study. Participants will have their health measures taken, complete questionnaires and participate in one of two 12-week exercise training programs. Those interested in participating in the study can contact the team at 613-798-5555, ext. 15944.

This year marks the University of Ottawa Heart Institute’s 40th anniversary since its foundation by the legendary cardiac surgeon, Dr. Wilbert Keon. Since then, the Institute has flourished into one of Canada’s most distinguished heart health centres for the unparalleled care it provides to its patients, a world-renowned research Institute that brings science from bench to bedside and the country’s main influencer when it comes to preventing heart disease. Its promise remains the very pillar on which it was built: Always putting patients first.

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