Bradycardia is the medical term for an unusually slow heart rate. Because symptoms of bradycardia can include tiring easily during exercise, a person with the condition may need to engage in lower-intensity sports and activities.

Occasional or borderline bradycardia may not present with any symptoms, so in these instances, a person may be able to exercise regularly without feeling faint or tired.

This article explores whether it is safe for someone to exercise with bradycardia. It discusses bradycardia symptoms that may impact someone’s ability to exercise, types of exercise to try, and managing bradycardia.

Finally, it outlines when someone should consider seeing a healthcare professional.

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According to the American Heart Association (AHA), doctors typically define bradycardia as when a person’s resting heart rate is less than 60 beats per minute.

Exercising with bradycardia is a very individual experience, and the types of activities a person can partake in depend on the cause of bradycardia.

Elite athletes, for example, may experience bradycardia when sleeping and at rest because their heart rate has dropped through consistent training and conditioning. These groups of people will often be able to engage in physical activity at an intense level without experiencing any symptoms.

However, people with an underlying health condition, such as sinoatrial node dysfunction, will likely have to make adjustments to prevent symptoms, such as fainting, from occurring. The sinoatrial node produces an electrical signal that regulates how often the heart beats.

Some other causes of a slow heart rate include:

If medications are affecting a person’s heart rate, a doctor may change them or alter the dose.

When a person is exercising, the following bradycardia symptoms can have an impact on their activity:

These symptoms are more likely to present in someone who has an underlying health condition rather than an athlete whose heart rate has slowed in response to conditioning.

People should speak with a doctor about how they can safely exercise with bradycardia. Some individuals may be able to exercise without experiencing any symptoms.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, regular exercise improves heart and lung health.

However, while anyone with an underlying heart condition should still engage in physical activity, if possible, they should also seek supervision from a doctor.

If someone has bradycardia and has not engaged in physical activity for a while, they should follow a plan that has a gradual increase in activity and intensity.

Depending on what a doctor has suggested, a person may be able to engage in moderate-intensity exercise or vigorous-intensity exercise when they have bradycardia.

Moderate-intensity aerobic exercises

Examples of moderate-intensity exercises include:

Vigorous-intensity aerobic exercises

Examples of vigorous-intensity exercises include:

  • cycling at 10 mph or more
  • running
  • swimming laps
  • hiking up-hill
  • aerobic dancing
  • heavy gardening, which may involve continuous digging, for example

When a person’s bradycardia does not cause any symptoms, typically no treatment is necessary.

However, if bradycardia is causing symptoms, beginning to cause other complications, or occurs alongside heart block, a person may require a pacemaker. Pacemakers are devices that help control how often the heart beats.

If a person’s medication is causing bradycardia as a side effect, a doctor may be able to adjust the dose or prescribe a different one.

A person should speak with a doctor if they are regularly feeling tired while exercising and have not changed their routine. They should also check in if they are experiencing other symptoms of bradycardia, such as chest pain.

Additionally, if someone with bradycardia is unsure of how much and what type of physical activity they should be engaging in on a regular basis, they should speak with a doctor.

The type of exercise a person with bradycardia can safely do depends on their individual circumstances.

Elite athletes with bradycardia can often engage in vigorous physical activity without symptoms. In comparison, someone with an underlying health condition may need to start exercising at a slower pace with guidance from their doctor.

People with bradycardia should discuss how to exercise safely with their doctor. They should also speak with a healthcare professional if their symptoms worsen.