(HealthDay News) — Exercise appears to help control atrial fibrillation (AF) in overweight or obese patients, according to a study published in the September 1 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Prashanthan Sanders, MBBS, PhD, director of the Center for Heart Rhythm Disorders at the University of Adelaide in Australia, and colleagues assigned 308 patients with AF to one of three groups based on their level of fitness: low, adequate, or high fitness. All had a body mass index of ≥27kg/m². The groups were followed for about four years to see how their level of fitness affected the recurrence of AF. Patients were also offered a physician-led weight-loss and exercise program.

After four years of follow-up, 84% in the high fitness group no longer had AF, compared with 76% in the adequate group and 17% in the low fitness group, the researchers found. Sanders’ team also found that for every increase in metabolic equivalent, the risk of AF recurrence was reduced 20%. Those with increases of two or more metabolic equivalents who also lost weight had especially dramatic declines in the likelihood of AF recurrence.

“Increased physical activity to gain cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with a reduction in atrial fibrillation burden and maintenance of a normal heart rhythm,” Sanders told HealthDay. “This study adds to a growing body of evidence that aggressive risk factor management with increased physical activity should be an integral component of management of atrial fibrillation.”

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