New HRV Research: Vol. 3

Here are 7 new studies pertaining to HRV and training.

New HRV Research: Vol. 1

New HRV Research: Vol. 2 


Dupuy, O. et al. (2013) Night and postexercise cardiac autonomic control in functional overreaching. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 2013, 38(2): 200-208, 10.1139/apnm-2012-0203


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of a 2-week overload period immediately followed by a 1-week taper period on the autonomic control of heart rate during the night or after exercise cessation. Eleven male endurance athletes increased their usual training volume by 100% for 2 weeks (overload) and decreased it by 50% for 1 week (taper). A maximal graded exercise test and a constant-speed test at 85% of peak treadmill speed, both followed by a 10-min passive recovery period, were performed at baseline and after each period. Heart rate variability was also measured during a 4-h period in the night or during estimated slow-wave sleep. All participants were considered to be overreached based on performance and physiological and psychological criteria. We found a decrease in cardiac parasympathetic control during slow-wave sleep (HFnu = 61.3% ± 11.7% vs 50.0% ± 10.1%, p < 0.05) but not during the 4-h period, as well as a faster heart rate recovery following the maximal graded exercise test (τ = 61.8 ± 14.5 s vs 54.7 ± 9.0 s, p < 0.05) but not after the constant-speed test, after the overload period. There was a return to baseline for both measures after the taper period. Other indices of cardiac autonomic control were not altered by the overload period. Care should be taken in selecting the most sensitive heart rate measures in the follow-up of athletes, because cardiac autonomic control is not affected uniformly by overload training.



Vargas, W. et al. (2013) Higher mean blood pressure is associated with autonomic imbalance but not with endothelial dysfunction in young soccer players. American Journal of Hypertension, doi: 10.1093/ajh/hps034

BACKGROUND Blood pressure (BP) should be kept within a narrow range to allow adequate tissue perfusion. In particular, heart-rate variability (HRV) can be used to assess autonomic cardiovascular modulation, and flow-mediated dilation (FMD) can provide valuable information about the ability of the cardiovascular system to adapt to different pressures. Our objective in the study described here was to investigate the effect of a difference of 10mm Hg in mean arterial pressure (MAP) on endothelial function and autonomic balance in young and normotensive soccer players.

METHODS Twenty-nine young male soccer players (mean age 17.7 years) were divided into two groups according to their MAP (mm Hg): MAP-84 and MAP-94. The BP, FMD, HRV and maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) of each group were measured.

RESULTS Systolic BP (SBP) and diastolic BP (DBP) were significantly higher (P < 0.0001 and P < 0.006, respectively) in the MAP-94 group. There were no differences in VO2max and endothelial function in the two groups (P < 0.7699). However, the standard deviation (SD) of normal RR intervals (SDNN) and the square root of the mean squared differences in successive RR intervals (RMSSD) were significantly lower in the MAP-94 than in the MAP-84 group (P < 0.0001 and P < 0.005, respectively). In the MAP-94 group, both the high-and low-frequency components were significantly (P< 0.001, P < 0.021, P < 0.017, respectively) lower in both absolute and normalized units, whereas the LF/HF ratio was significantly (P < 0.012) higher.

CONCLUSIONS Collectively, our findings indicate that in young soccer players, autonomic cardiovascular modulation is impaired when MAP is increased by 10mm Hg, even within an optimal range of BP and regardless of endothelial function and VO2max.



Heydari, M., Boutcher & Boutcher. (2013) High-intensity intermittent exercise and cardiovascular and autonomic function. Clinical Autonomic Research, 23(1): 57-65


The effect of 12 weeks of high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) on cardiac, vascular, and autonomic function of young males was examined.


Thirty-eight young men with a BMI of 28.7 ± 3.1 kg m−2 and age 24.9 ± 4.3 years were randomly assigned to either an HIIE or control group. The exercise group underwent HIIE three times per week, 20 min per session, for 12 weeks. Aerobic power and a range of cardiac, vascular, and autonomic measures were recorded before and after the exercise intervention.


The exercise, compared to the control group, recorded a significant reduction in heart rate accompanied by an increase in stroke volume. For the exercise group forearm vasodilatory capacity was significantly enhanced, P < 0.05. Arterial stiffness, determined by pulse wave velocity and augmentation index, was also significantly improved, after the 12-week intervention. For the exercise group, heart period variability (low- and high-frequency power) and baroreceptor sensitivity were significantly increased.


High-intensity intermittent exercise induced significant cardiac, vascular, and autonomic improvements after 12 weeks of training.



Souza, G., et al. (2013) Resting vagal control and resilience as predictors of cardiovascular allostasis in peacekeepers. Stress, doi:10.3109/10253890.2013.767326


The body’s adaptive reaction to a stressful event, an allostatic response, involves vigorous physiological engagement with and efficient recovery from stress. Our aim was to investigate the influence of individual predispositions on cardiac responses to and recovery from a standardized psychosocial stress task (Trier Social Stress Task) in peacekeepers. We hypothesized that those individuals with higher trait resilience and those with higher resting vagal control would be more likely to present an allostatic response: a vigorous cardiac response to stress (i.e., reduction in interbeat intervals and heart rate variability (HRV)) coupled with a significant cardiac recovery in the aftermath. Fifty male military personnel with a mean age of 25.4 years (SD ± 5.99) were evaluated after returning from a peacekeeping mission. Electrocardiogram recordings were made throughout the experimental session, which consisted five conditions: basal, speech preparation, speech delivery, arithmetic task, and recovery. Mean interbeat intervals and HRV were calculated for each condition. An Ego-Resilience Scale and resting vagal control assessed individual predispositions. Stress tasks reduced interbeat intervals (tachycardia) and HRV in comparison with basal, with return to basal in the aftermath (p < 0.001, for all comparisons). Resilience and resting vagal control correlated positively with cardiac parameters for both stress reactivity and recovery (r ≥ 0.29; p < 0.05). In conclusion, peacekeepers showing higher trait resilience and those with higher resting vagal control presented a more adaptive allostatic reaction characterized by vigorous cardiac response to stress (i.e., tachycardia and vagal withdrawal) and efficient cardiac recovery after stress cessation.


Lujan, H.L. & DiCarlo. (2013) Physical activity, by enhancing parasympathetic tone and activating the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway, is a therapeutic strategy to restrain chronic inflammation and prevent many chronic diseases. Medical Hypotheses, doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2013.01.014


Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death in the world and chronic inflammation is a key contributor to many chronic diseases. Accordingly, interventions that reduce inflammation may be effective in treating multiple adverse chronic conditions. In this context, physical activity is documented to reduce systemic low-grade inflammation and is acknowledged as an anti-inflammatory intervention. Furthermore, physically active individuals are at a lower risk of developing chronic diseases. However the mechanisms mediating this anti-inflammatory phenotype and range of health benefits are unknown. We hypothesize that the “cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway” (CAP) mediates the anti-inflammatory phenotype and range of health benefits associated with physical activity. The CAP is an endogenous, physiological mechanism by which acetylcholine from the vagus nerve, interacts with the innate immune system to modulate and restrain the inflammatory cascade. Importantly, higher levels of physical activity are associated with enhanced parasympathetic (vagal) tone and lower levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of low-grade inflammation. Accordingly, physical activity, by enhancing parasympathetic tone and activating the CAP, may be a therapeutic strategy to restrain chronic inflammation and prevent many chronic diseases.



Luque-Casado A, Zabala M, Morales E, Mateo-March M, Sanabria D (2013) Cognitive Performance and Heart Rate Variability: The Influence of Fitness Level. PLoS ONE 8(2): e56935. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056935


In the present study, we investigated the relation between cognitive performance and heart rate variability as a function of fitness level. We measured the effect of three cognitive tasks (the psychomotor vigilance task, a temporal orienting task, and a duration discrimination task) on the heart rate variability of two groups of participants: a high-fit group and a low-fit group. Two major novel findings emerged from this study. First, the lowest values of heart rate variability were found during performance of the duration discrimination task, compared to the other two tasks. Second, the results showed a decrement in heart rate variability as a function of the time on task, although only in the low-fit group. Moreover, the high-fit group showed overall faster reaction times than the low-fit group in the psychomotor vigilance task, while there were not significant differences in performance between the two groups of participants in the other two cognitive tasks. In sum, our results highlighted the influence of cognitive processing on heart rate variability. Importantly, both behavioral and physiological results suggested that the main benefit obtained as a result of fitness level appeared to be associated with processes involving sustained attention.



Oliveira, T.P. et al. (2013) Absence of parasympathetic reactivation after maximal exercise. Clinical Physiology and Functional Imagine, 33(2): 143-149.


The ability of the human organism to recover its autonomic balance soon after physical exercise cessation has an important impact on the individual’s health status. Although the dynamics of heart rate recovery after maximal exercise has been studied, little is known about heart rate variability after this type of exercise. The aim of this study is to analyse the dynamics of heart rate and heart rate variability recovery after maximal exercise in healthy young men. Fifteen healthy male subjects (21·7 ± 3·4 years; 24·0 ± 2·1 kg m−2) participated in the study. The experimental protocol consisted of an incremental maximal exercise test on a cycle ergometer, until maximal voluntary exhaustion. After the test, recovery R-R intervals were recorded for 5 min. From the absolute differences between peak heart rate values and the heart rate values at 1 and 5 min of the recovery, the heart rate recovery was calculated. Postexercise heart rate variability was analysed from calculations of the SDNN and RMSSD indexes, in 30-s windows (SDNN30s and RMSSD30s) throughout recovery. One and 5 min after maximal exercise cessation, the heart rate recovered 34·7 (±6·6) and 75·5 (±6·1) bpm, respectively. With regard to HRV recovery, while the SDNN30s index had a slight increase, RMSSD30s index remained totally suppressed throughout the recovery, suggesting an absence of vagal modulation reactivation and, possibly, a discrete sympathetic withdrawal. Therefore, it is possible that the main mechanism associated with the fall of HR after maximal exercise is sympathetic withdrawal or a vagal tone restoration without vagal modulation recovery.

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