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When I first started having heart palpitations and ended up at the ER, I completely stopped exercising. I thought that if I tried to workout I would have a heart attack. I was running fairly regularly too, and I enjoy being active, so it was hard to slow down. But I thought it was for my good. I was wrong. In hindsight, I think that it only made my anxiety and fear worse, not to mention my heart palpitations. I wasn’t able to burn off any of the stress that I was having from work and from the heart palpitations themselves.
It wasn’t until I had a bazillion tests done and met with my cardiologist that I finally got back into exercising. And it made a big difference. I now had a way to “reset” my heart back to it’s normal rhythm. Eventually the heart palpitations would come back, but I could always run outside or jump on a treadmill and 20-30 minutes later I would feel a lot better.
I thought exercise was my magic cure all. However, I was miserable at night and couldn’t sleep with all my heart skips. There were also times I couldn’t get to the gym, like during work, and it was rough. I ended up doing crazy things like 20 minutes of jumping jacks at 3am just to make the heart palpitations go away. It wasn’t very practical. Since then, I have found other things that help reduce my heart palpitations – like eating smarter and smaller meals, breathing exercises, meditation, etc… Exercise is still the best way to get my heart back to a normal beat again, but now it’s not the only way.
Not all exercises are created equal. Some are better than others for heart palpitations (at least in my experience).
Not surprisingly, rhythmic exercises are the best for getting your heart back on beat. The idea is that you are doing consistent movements at a steady, increased heart rate (more beats per minute). So rather than something like sprints where your heart rate goes up and then back down, you do an exercise that keeps your elevated heart rate constant for an extended amount of time. I find it is a great way to get my heart back in rhythm.
My preferred method of exercise is running, although I try to also try to sneak in as much cycling and swimming as my schedule allows. I can’t say that I ever dance much (unless you count the times I walk into my boys room barefoot and there are a minefield of legos everywhere), so that’s about the only one I haven’t really tried. I’m a terrible dancer so there wouldn’t actually be much rhythm anyways 🙂
Wearing a heart rate monitor has also made a big difference when I exercise. Once all my heart tests came back negative or inconclusive my doctor said that I was clear to exercise, but I should wear a heart rate monitor. I’m glad I did too. It gives me a peace of mind and helps me know if I am exercising in the proper target heart rate zones. I highly recommend that you use one. Here is the one I use (My Watch). I love it. It’s simple and really easy to use. I will have to write a post about it some time.
Occasionally, I will experience heart palpitations after I exercise and I believe it is for two reasons. The first is that I am lifting weights and that puts stress on my body (possibly even aggravating the vagus nerve). The second is that after a more rigorous workout my adrenaline levels are still high for a while but my heart rate is slowing down. It is during this time that heart palpitations can return for a bit. But knowing that makes me fear them less, and for me, the benefit of exercising and burning stress far outweighs the possibility of exercise induced heart palpitations.
So don’t be discouraged! It is possible to exercise with heart palpitations (if your doctor says you can, of course). You just have to be more careful and keep an eye on your heart rate. Since developing heart palpitations, I have completed five triathlons and six 5ks. I have grown to love running, cycling, and swimming. I love how good they make me feel when I’m done exercising.
So how about you? Does exercise help your heart palpitations? Does it make them worse? What kinds of exercise do you do?