Physical activity may be an important modifiable risk factor for atrial fibrillation (AF), but associations have been variable and generally based on self-reported activity.
We analysed 93 669 participants of the UK Biobank prospective cohort study without prevalent AF who wore a wrist-based accelerometer for 1 week. We categorized whether measured activity met the standard recommendations of the European Society of Cardiology, American Heart Association, and World Health Organization [moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) ≥150 min/week]. We tested associations between guideline-adherent activity and incident AF (primary) and stroke (secondary) using Cox proportional hazards models adjusted for age, sex, and each component of the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology AF (CHARGE-AF) risk score. We also assessed correlation between accelerometer-derived and self-reported activity. The mean age was 62 ± 8 years and 57% were women. Over a median of 5.2 years, 2338 incident AF events occurred. In multivariable adjusted models, guideline-adherent activity was associated with lower risks of AF [hazard ratio (HR) 0.82, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.75-0.89; incidence 3.5/1000 person-years, 95% CI 3.3-3.8 vs. 6.5/1000 person-years, 95% CI 6.1-6.8] and stroke (HR 0.76, 95% CI 0.64-0.90; incidence 1.0/1000 person-years, 95% CI 0.9-1.1 vs. 1.8/1000 person-years, 95% CI 1.6-2.0). Correlation between accelerometer-derived and self-reported MVPA was weak (Spearman r = 0.16, 95% CI 0.16-0.17). Self-reported activity was not associated with incident AF or stroke.
Greater accelerometer-derived physical activity is associated with lower risks of AF and stroke. Future preventive efforts to reduce AF risk may be most effective when targeting adherence to objective activity thresholds.

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