Heart rate variability in obese children: relations to total body and visceral adiposity, and changes with physical training and detraining

Obes Res. 2000 Jan;8(1):12-9. doi: 10.1038/oby.2000.3.


Objective: Heart rate variability provides non-invasive information about cardiac parasympathetic activity (PSA). We determined in obese children: (1) relations of baseline PSA to body composition and hemodynamics; (2) effects of physical training (PT) and cessation of PT; and (3) which factors explained individual differences in responsivity of PSA to the PT.

Research methods and procedures: The root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD) was the index of PSA. Obese children (n = 79) were randomly assigned to groups that participated in PT during the first or second 4-month periods of the study.

Results: Baseline RMSSD was significantly (p<0.05) associated with lower levels of: fat mass, fat-free mass, subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue, resting heart rate (HR), resting systolic blood pressure, and exercise HR. Stepwise multiple regression produced a final model (R2 = 0.36) that included only resting HR. The analysis of changes over the three time points of the study found a significant (p = 0.026) time by group interaction, such that RMSSD increased during periods of PT and decreased following cessation of PT. Greater individual increases in response to the PT (p<0.05) were seen in those who had lower pre-PT RMSSD levels, showed the greatest decreases in resting HR, and increased most in vigorous physical activity. The final regression model retained only the change in resting HR as a significant predictor of the changes in the RMSSD (R2 = 0.23).

Discussion: Regular exercise that improved fitness and body composition had a favorable effect on PSA in obese children.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue*
  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Composition*
  • Child
  • Diet
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Regression Analysis