Does Lack of Exercise Cause Heart Palpitations?

Scary though they may be, palpitations are rarely threatening on their own. However, in some cases they are indicators of underlying problems. If you don't get enough exercise, heart palpitations might be your body trying to send you an important message.

A young man is jogging.
Credit: Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images

Heart Palpitation Symptoms

The American Heart Association describes a heart palpitation as a single premature heartbeat, which might feel like your heart is "skipping a beat." Palpitations can happen a few times in a row, which causes a "fluttering" sensation in the upper chest or neck. Although palpitations can be worrisome, they are rarely dangerous: They don't tend to cause a lasting effect in your body. However, if they become strong enough to affect your heart function, you might feel fatigue, dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath or chest pain. If you have any of these symptoms, seek emergency medical attention.

Heart Palpitation Triggers

Although there is not always an obvious cause of heart palpitations, palpitations may occur when you exercise, are stressed or overdo it on caffeine. Activities that increase your heart rate are the most likely to trigger palpitations. Heart palpitations occuring after exercise might be due to your heart rate slowing while your adrenaline is still pumping. In some cases, though, palpitations can be a symptom of heart disease. If you aren't in the best shape and are starting to have palpitations, see your doctor for a full diagnosis.

The Role of Exercise

Exercise is good for your heart. It works your heart muscle and keeps your cardiovascular system in shape. However, if you haven't exercised in a while and you suddenly go for a sprint, you might do more harm than good, as sudden exercise is a very common trigger for heart arrhythmias. You should still exercise, but make sure you warm up and cool down to let your heart change pace gradually.

Solutions for Lack of Exercise

Lack of exercise doesn't directly cause heart palpitations, but it is a contributing factor. If you're out of shape and worried about your heart, talk to your doctor. Find a good workout routine that will let you get your cardiovascular fitness back without overworking your most important muscle. Your doctor might also recommend cutting back on smoking, alcohol and especially caffeine until you return to a healthier state.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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