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THE JOURNAL OF SPORTS MEDICINE AND PHYSICAL FITNESS
Rivista di Medicina, Traumatologia e Psicologia dello Sport
Indexed/Abstracted in: Chemical Abstracts, CINAHL, Current Contents/Clinical Medicine, EMBASE, PubMed/MEDLINE, Science Citation Index Expanded (SciSearch), Scopus
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ORIGINAL ARTICLES SPORT CARDIOLOGY
The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 2016 June;56(6):794-801
Association between aerobic fitness and indices of autonomic regulation: cardiovascular risk implications
Roberto SALA 1, 2, Mara MALACARNE 2, 3, Massimo PAGANI 1, Daniela LUCINI 2, 3 ✉
1 Department of Sports Medicine, University of Milan, Milan, Italy; 2 Sport and Exercise Medicine Unit, Humanitas Clinical and Research Center, Milan, Italy; 3 Department of Medical Biotechnology and Translational Medicine, University of Milan, Milan, Italy
BACKGROUND: In the general population higher levels of exercise capacity seem to protect the cardiovascular system with effects well beyond traditional risk factors. We hypothesize that this phenomenon, called “risk factor gap”, could be ascribed to functional components, such as autonomic adaptation to aerobic training.
METHODS: In 257 subjects (age 36.2±0.8 years) we measured VO2peak (incremental cycling exercise), together with arterial pressure and autonomic proxies (baroreflex gain, R-R variance and standing induced increase in marker of excitatory oscillatory regulation of the SA node, ∆LFRRnu).
RESULTS: Autonomic proxies appeared significantly correlated with indicators of aerobic fitness (age and gender corrected correlation between VO2peak, baroreflex gain: r=0.277, P<0.001, and DAP r=-0.228, P<0.001). Subsequently, subjects were subdivided in three age and gender adjusted categories of VO2peak (poor, medium and good). Autonomic indices and arterial pressure appeared significantly ordered with categories of VO2peak (P<0.006). In addition, within these categories the proportion of subjects with a desirable autonomic and pressure profile becomes significantly greater with better fitness levels.
CONCLUSIONS: The strong ordered relationship between categories of aerobic fitness and autonomic proxies speaks in favor of a complementary role of the autonomic nervous system in the management of cardiovascular risk factor gap at a population level.