Zone 2 Training – An Exercise for Most Afib Patients
July 12, 2023
Many Afib patients are rightfully concerned about exercising with a heart concern top of mind. After all, heavy exercise may be a trigger for an Afib episode. Further, there is often the fear on the patient’s part that exercise can or will cause a heart attack. While exercise itself is not the culprit, this is a legitimate concern because the increased blood flow necessitated by heavy exercise can worsen symptoms of existing cardiovascular problems.
That said, it’s important to mention, before we continue, that any new exercise regimen, no matter how mild, should be discussed with your electrophysiologist or cardiologist to ensure suitability.
Zone two training, as it is known, can be one of the most effective exercise regimens for patients with atrial fibrillation and other cardiovascular concerns. Let’s start by understanding what exactly zone two training is. This form of training is not a new fad in the exercise world but a tried-and-true pursuit that many of the top athletes worldwide employ. And no, it’s not high intensity; quite the opposite. Zone two training aims to maintain a consistent 70 to 80% of maximum heart rate for between 45 and 60 minutes. While a heart rate monitor can give you this exact measurement, we often approximate this zone by the patient’s ability to maintain a conversation during exercise.
If It’s Not Hard, Can It Be Effective?
The short answer is yes; while zone 2 training seems and is mild in the spectrum of exercises, it can be very effective in creating a base or foundational level of fitness that benefits you in several ways. As we mentioned above, athletes used this form of training as a stepping stone for higher levels of fitness and more intense workouts – interestingly, high-intensity workouts do not help improve baseline fitness. Future exercise will become more manageable, and pushing yourself as appropriate and directed by your electrophysiologist will become more effective and less risky.
Consistency Is Key
The trick to zone 2 training is ensuring you remain in that zone for the entire walk, bike ride, or other exercise. This necessitates a relatively flat and even surface on which to exercise. While there is room for fluctuation, some benefit is lost if your heart rate fluctuates too much. Further, this is more than just a one-and-done type of exercise. This exercise should be performed regularly, up to a few times weekly, to derive the maximum benefit. Unfortunately, because of the time commitment necessary, it can be difficult for some patients to follow this long-term. For that, we have a few pieces of advice.
First, try to perform this activity outside. Not only does that offer great well-being, but it’s also a stress reliever. While outside, you’ll breathe fresh air and take in the sights around you. This exercise doubles as a relaxation tool as you see beautiful surroundings in and around Tampa.
Do it with a buddy. Having somebody with you during these long walks can be very helpful as it allows you to approximate your heart rate zone with our rudimentary “conversation measurement.” Also, having someone by your side to motivate and challenge you almost always yields better results than going at it alone.
If you can’t get outside, using a treadmill at the gym or home is an excellent option. Advanced treadmills, the likes of which you find at the gym, are not only adjustable to challenge you further as you become more conditioned, but they often have heart rate monitors that can help ensure you stay within the zone 2 boundary.
Last but certainly not least, it’s essential that you stay hydrated throughout your exercise. Hydration is vital to good heart health and Afib management and prevention. It’s also hot out there, and it’s easy to get overheated, dehydrated, and ultimately develop an urgent medical situation. Your daily water consumption may not apply if you spend lots of time outside, especially during the summer. Drink plenty of water, and let your body be your guide. Get more water if you are sluggish or your urine is medium to dark yellow.
As we always mention to our patients, any new exercise must be discussed with your electrophysiologist or medical specialist. However, implementing a zone two training program like the one discussed above is an excellent way to prepare for more intense training in the future.
Even if this limits your ability, you will be preparing your heart, helping to avoid worsening cardiovascular concerns you may have. As always, if you have any heart rhythm abnormalities or problems, they are best treated early, and we encourage you to visit Dr. Tordini by scheduling a consultation with our office.