Weekly vagal modulations and their associations with physical fitness and physical activity

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European Journal of Sport Science


The root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD) of R-R intervals, the most robust vagal modulation parameter of heart rate variability (HRV), has been proposed as a marker of global health and training adaptations. The weekly averaging of RMSSD and its natural logarithm (LnRMSSD) has been adopted to enhance detection of training-induced adaptations. We assessed measures of aerobic fitness, body composition, objective physical activity (PA), and daily LnRMSSD recordings during different conditions, such as supine rest, seated rest, standing and walking at 5 km/h, over a week in 34 healthy young individuals of both sexes (age: 22 ± 4 yr; body fatness: 20 ± 8%; estimated VO2max: 40 ± 8 mL·kg−1·min−1). The day-to-day reliability and agreement among LnRMSSD averages over 5, 4, 3, 2 and a single-day value per condition were assessed, while correlations between LnRMSSD, aerobic fitness, body composition, and PA were also examined. Poor to good day-to-day reliability, and moderate to excellent agreement were observed for LnRMSSD recordings for diverse conditions with a minimum of two daily recordings in the supine condition, and three in the other conditions achieving excellent agreement for weekly HRV assessment. Several correlations between LnRMSSD, aerobic fitness, body composition, and PA were revealed, with stronger observed associations during walking. Utilisation of weekly HRV (average of 2–3 daily recordings), as described in the current study, may provide practitioners with a tool to assess weekly vagal modulations for health and performance purposes. Walking HRV recordings may be a practical alternative to other conditions for the investigation of cardiac autonomic function.

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