The effect of aerobic training and cardiac autonomic regulation in young adults

Am J Public Health. 2009 May;99(5):921-8. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2007.133165. Epub 2009 Mar 19.


Objectives: We tested the effect of aerobic exercise on autonomic regulation of the heart in healthy young adults.

Methods: Healthy, sedentary young adults (n = 149; age = 30.4 +/- 7.53 years) were randomized to receive 12 weeks of either aerobic conditioning or strength training. Primary outcomes were heart rate and RR interval variability (RRV) measured before and after training and after 4 weeks of sedentary deconditioning. RRV, a noninvasive index of cardiac autonomic regulation, reflects variability in the intervals between consecutive R waves of the electrocardiogram.

Results: Aerobic conditioning but not strength training led to a significant increase in aerobic capacity (3.11 mL/kg/min), a decrease in heart rate (-3.49 beats per minute), and an increase in high-frequency RRV (0.25 natural log msec2), each of which returned to pretraining levels after deconditioning. Significant 3-way interactions, however, revealed autonomic effects only in men.

Conclusions: In sedentary, healthy young adults, aerobic conditioning but not strength training enhances autonomic control of the heart, but post hoc analyses suggested that gender plays a significant role in this exercise-related cardioprotection.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Exercise Tolerance / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Regression Analysis
  • Young Adult