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, 20 (2), 108-18

Heart Rate Variability Indexes as a Marker of Chronic Adaptation in Athletes: A Systematic Review


Heart Rate Variability Indexes as a Marker of Chronic Adaptation in Athletes: A Systematic Review

Vanessa Pereira da Silva et al. Ann Noninvasive Electrocardiol.


Background: Regular exercise promotes functional and structural changes in the central and peripheral mechanisms of the cardiovascular system. Heart rate variability (HRV) measurement provides a sensitive indicator of the autonomic balance. However, because of the diversity of methods and variables used, the results are difficult to compare in the sports sciences. Since the protocol (supine, sitting, or standing position) and measure (time or frequency domain) are not well defined, the aim of this study is to investigate the HRV measures that better indicates the chronic adaptations of physical exercise in athletes.

Method: PubMed (MEDLINE), Web of Science, SciELO (Scientific Electronic Library), and Scopus databases were consulted. Original complete articles in English with short-term signals evaluating young and adult athletes, between 17 and 40 years old, with a control group, published up to 2013 were included.

Results: Selected 19 of 1369 studies, for a total sample pool of 333 male and female athletes who practice different sports. The main protocols observed were the supine or standing positions in free or controlled breathing conditions. The main statistical results found in this study were the higher mean RR, standard deviation of RR intervals, and high frequency in athletes group. In addition, the analyses of Cohen's effect size showed that factors as modality of sport, protocol used and unit of measure selected could influence this expected results.

Conclusion: Our findings indicate that time domain measures are more consistent than frequency domain to describe the chronic cardiovascular autonomic adaptations in athletes.

Keywords: autonomic nervous system; electrocardiogram; physical exercises; resistance training; sports.

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