Resting heart rate changes after endurance training in older adults: a meta-analysis

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2005 Aug;37(8):1381-6. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000174899.35392.0c.


Purpose: Question remains regarding endurance training and changes in resting heart rate (HR) among older individuals. The objective of this meta-analysis was to determine the effects of controlled aerobic training on resting HR among sedentary older adults.

Methods: Studies were identified by a systematic computer database search, hand article search, and cross-reference. The inclusion criteria were (i) controlled clinical trials, (ii) endurance exercise as the only intervention, (iii) a nonexercise control group, (iv) within-group mean ages of subjects > or = 60 yr, (v) a measure of changes in resting HR, (vi) studies published in English journals.

Results: Outcome was derived from 13 studies with a total of 651 individuals in 14 control (N = 241) and 16 exercise groups (N = 410). The pooled standardized effect size by a fixed-effect model showed an upper moderate effect of -0.58 +/- 0.08 (mean +/- SEM, 95% CI = -0.74 to -0.42). This homogeneity effect was statistically significant (P = 0.001). The magnitude of net change averaged -6 bpm (-2 to -12 bpm), representing an 8.4% reduction. Greater and statistically significant decrease of resting HR among the elderly was found in the studies with training length more than 30 wk.

Conclusions: This meta-analytic investigation supports the efficacy of endurance exercise training in decreasing HR at rest in older adults. This training induced adaptation may have protective benefits for cardiovascular aging. A longer exercise training length, probably more than 30 wk, may be needed for older individuals to be more effective in terms of resting HR reduction.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Electrocardiography
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Heart Rate*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • United States