Aerobic training and cardiovascular responses at rest and during exercise in older men and women

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The effects of an intense 8-wk aerobic training program on cardiovascular responses at rest and during exercise, including heart rate variability (HRV) as an expression of autonomic modulation, were evaluated in subjects over 70 yr (mean: 73.9 ± 3.5 yr).


Before and after training in 7 men and 8 women: a) heart rate (HR), blood pressures (BPs), pulse pressure (PP), and oxygen uptake were measured at rest, during, and after exhausting incremental exercise; b) HRV power spectra were calculated at rest in supine and sitting, and during and after two submaximal constant loads (5 min). Power in low-frequency (LF, 0.04–0.15 Hz) and high-frequency (HF, >0.15 Hz) bands were expressed as a percent of total power minus power < 0.04 Hz.


After training: a) at rest HR and HRV parameters (in both body positions) were unchanged, whereas BPs decreased; b) peak cycle resistance and oxygen consumption increased by 25% and 18%, respectively, but no change in maximal HR and BPs were found; c) during submaximal loads HR was unchanged at the same metabolic demand, whereas SBP and DBP were lower than before at low loads whereas PP was unchanged. LF power decreased and HF increased at oxygen uptakes above about 0.7 L·min−1 similarly before and after training; and d) recovery of all parameters was similar to pretraining and complete after 10 min


The increase in exercise capacity without changes in cardiovascular parameters suggests that 8 wk of aerobic training augmented peripheral gas exchange but not delivery to muscle. The lack of effect on HRV indicates that the improvements in aerobic power and cardiac autonomic modulation, at least in subjects over 70 yr, are dissociated. Moreover, the metabolic demand seems to be the main factor for the changes in HRV power spectra that occur during exercise.

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