There are many consequences associated with having a stroke, all of which are important factors affecting long-term rehabilitation outcomes; these become important health issues for those of advanced age and require dedicated health strategies. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is an effective training protocol used in cardiac rehabilitation programs; however, owing to the inter-individual variability in physiological responses to training associated with cardiovascular diseases, the exercise regimen given to each patient should be closely controlled and individualized to ensure the safety and efficiency of the exercise program. Heart rate variability (HRV) is currently being used for this purpose, as it is closely linked to parasympathetic nervous system activation, with high HRV scores associated with good cardiovascular adaptation. The objective of this protocol is to determine the effect of HIIT compared to HRV-guided training in terms of cardiorespiratory fitness, heart rate variability, functional parameters, body composition, quality of life, inflammatory markers, and cognitive function in patients who have had a stroke, as well as to assess the feasibility of patients undertaking an 8-week cardiac rehabilitation program, evaluating its safety and their adherence. The proposed protocol involved cluster-randomized controlled design in which the post-stroke patients are assigned either to an HRV-based training group (HRV-G) or a HIIT-based training group (HIIT-G). HIIT-G will train according to a predefined training program, whereas HRV-G will train depending on the patients' daily HRV. The outcomes considered are peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak), endothelial and work parameters, heart rate variability, functional parameters, relative weight and body fat distribution, quality of life, inflammatory markers and cognitive function, as well as exercise adherence, feasibility, and safety. It is expected that this HRV-guided training protocol will improve functional performance in patients following a stroke and be safer, more feasible, and generate improved adherence relative to HIIT, providing an improved strategy for to optimize cardiac rehabilitation interventions.
Keywords: HIIT; VO2peak; adherence; cardiac rehabilitation; heart rate variability; protocol; safety.