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Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2015 Oct;86(10):875-80. doi: 10.3357/AMHP.4296.2015.

Physical Fitness and Dehydration Influences on the Cardiac Autonomic Control of Fighter Pilots.

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Universidade Católica de Brasília, Águas Claras, Brazil.



Physical fitness and dehydration are factors that may influence cardiac autonomic control. We aimed to verify the influence of these factors on cardiac autonomic control before, during, and after a flight.


At the same time of day, 11 healthy fighter pilots recorded several 1-h bouts of heart rate (HR) activity during a non- (control) and a training flight day. Autonomic control of HR was examined via time domain and non-linear heart rate variability (HRV) analyses. The level of dehydration during the flight was evaluated by changes in hematocrit, while aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and body fatness were the physical fitness components evaluated.


The flight induced a significant reduction in most parameters of HRV during flight time when compared to the control day. However, no differences were found between the days before the flight, while the root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD) of HR was the only parameter significantly reduced (11.05 ± 7.7%) after the flight. Significant correlations were observed between the sample entropy of HR during flight and aerobic capacity (r = 0.777) and body fatness (r = -0.617). Correlations between dehydration and changes in HRV (RMSSD and SD1) were also identified (r = -0.61 to -0.81).


The current results demonstrated significant relationships between aerobic capacity, body fatness, and hydration status on autonomic control of HR during and after flights. No relationship to muscular strength was observed. Future studies may further elucidate the impact of these factors on pilot training in order to accommodate flight's stressors and enhance performance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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