Does the human heart fatigue subsequent to prolonged exercise?

Sports Med. 2003;33(5):365-80. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200333050-00003.


A reduction in left ventricular systolic and diastolic function subsequent to prolonged exercise in healthy humans, often called exercise-induced cardiac fatigue (EICF), has recently been reported in the literature. However, our current understanding of the exact nature and magnitude of EICF is limited. To date, there is no consensus as to the clinical relevance of such findings and whether such alterations in function are likely to impact upon performance. Much of the existing literature has employed field-based competitions. Whilst ecologically valid, this approach has made it difficult to control many factors such as the duration and intensity of effort, fitness and training status of subjects and environmental conditions. The impact of such variables on EICF has not been fully evaluated and is worthy of further research. To date, most EICF studies have been descriptive, with limited success in elucidating mechanisms. To this end, the assessment of humoral markers of cardiac myocyte or membrane disruption has produced contradictory findings partially due to controversy over the validity of specific assays. It is, therefore, important that future research utilises reliable and valid biochemical techniques to address these aetiological factors as well as develop work on other potential contributors to EICF such as elevated free fatty acid concentrations, free radicals and beta-adrenoceptor down-regulation. In summary, whilst some descriptive evidence of EICF is available, there are large gaps in our knowledge of what specific factors related to exercise might facilitate functional changes. These topics present interesting but complex challenges to future research in this field.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiomyopathies / physiopathology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology*
  • Myocardial Contraction / physiology
  • Myocardium / chemistry*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Stroke Volume / physiology
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Left / physiopathology
  • Ventricular Function, Left / physiology