Interest of analyses of heart rate variability in the prevention of fatigue states in senior runners

Auton Neurosci. 2013 Jan;173(1-2):14-21. doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2012.10.007. Epub 2012 Nov 15.


Background: The use of heart rate variability (HRV) in the management of sport training is a practice which tends to spread, especially in order to prevent the occurrence of fatigue states.

Objectives: To estimate the HRV parameters obtained using a heart rate recording, according to different exercise impacts, and to make the link with the appearance of subjective fatigue.

Methods: Ten senior runners, aged 51±5 years, were each monitored over a period of 12 weeks in different conditions: (i) after a resting period, (ii) after a day with training, (iii) after a day of competition and (iv) after a rest day. They also completed three questionnaires, to assess fatigue (SFMS), profile of mood states (POMS) and quality of sleep.

Results: The HRV indices (heart rate, LF (n.u.), HF (n.u.) and LF/HF) were significantly altered with the competitive impact, shifting toward a sympathetic predominance. After rest and recovery nights, the LF (n.u.) increased significantly with the competitive impact (62.1±15.2 and 66.9±11.6 vs. 76.0±10.7; p<0.05 respectively) whereas the HF (n.u.) decreased significantly (37.9±15.2 and 33.1±11.6 vs. 24.0±10.7; p<0.05 respectively). Positive correlations were found between fatigue and frequency domain indices and between fatigue and training impact.

Conclusion: Autonomic nervous system modulation-fatigue relationships were significant, suggesting the potential use of HRV in follow-up and control of training. Furthermore, the addition of questionnaires constitutes complementary tools that allow to achieve a greater relevance and accuracy of the athletes' fitness and results.

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Aging*
  • Athletes*
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology
  • Exercise*
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Fatigue / prevention & control*
  • Heart Rate*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Physical Fitness
  • Rest*
  • Running
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors