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The influence of exercise intensity on the power spectrum of heart rate variability.

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Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche e Biotecnologie, Università di Brescia, Italy.


The power spectral analysis of R-R interval variability (RRV) has been estimated by means of an autoregressive method in seven sedentary males at rest, during steady-state cycle exercise at 21 percent maximal oxygen uptake (%VO2max), SEM 2%, 49% VO2max, SEM 2% and 70% VO2max, SEM 2% and during recovery. The RRV, i.e. the absolute power of the spectrum, decreased 10, 100 and 500 times in the three exercise intensities, returning to resting value during recovery. In the RRV power spectrum three components have been identified: (1) high frequency peak (HF), central frequency about 0.24 Hz at rest and recovery, and 0.28 Hz, SEM 0.02, 0.37 Hz, SEM 0.03 and 0.48 Hz, SEM 0.06 during the three exercise intensities, respectively; (2) low frequency peak (LF), central frequency about 0.1 Hz independent of the metabolic state; (3) very low frequency component (VLF), less than 0.05 Hz, no peak observed. The HF peak power, as a percentage of the total power (HF%), averaged 16%, SEM 5% at rest and did not change during exercise, whereas during recovery it decreased to 5%-10%. The LF% and VLF% were about 50% and 35% at rest and during low exercise intensity, respectively. At higher intensities, LF% decreased to 16% and VLF% increased to 70%. During recovery a return to resting values occurred. The HF component may reflect the increased respiratory rate and the LF peak changes the resetting of the baroreceptor reflex with exercise. The hypothesis is made that VLF fluctuations in heart rate might be partially mediated by the sympathetic system.

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