Exercise has been shown to improve heart rate variability (HRV) at rest in healthy subjects. HRV response during and immediately after acute exercise in obese individuals following aerobic exercise training has not been evaluated. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of 12 weeks of moderate intensity aerobic exercise training on HRV during acute exercise and active postexercise recovery in obese individuals.


Eleven obese individuals (5 men, 6 women; body mass index = 39.2 ± 6.3 kg·m−2] underwent 12 weeks of exercise training at 60% of predicted VO2max, determined via a submaximal treadmill test. Body composition was assessed with dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. HRV was measured during the final minute in each exercise stage and in recovery and analyzed with Kubios HRV software.


Predicted VO2max (baseline: 28.2 ± 3.5 mL·kg−1·min−1 and posttraining: 27.4 mL·kg−1·min−1, P > 0.05) was unchanged and body fat % decreased (46.2% ± 2.2 vs 45.5% ± 7.2, respectively). Initial stage heart rate and postexercise recovery heart rate was lower after training. The high frequency component was greater during the initial exercise stage after training. The low frequency component and the standard deviation of instantaneous beat-to-beat variability were greater during the final exercise stage after training. During cooldown, the root-mean-square of differences between adjacent RR intervals and high frequency normalized units were greater after training.


HRV markers were improved during acute exercise stage and active recovery in obese individuals following 12 weeks of moderate intensity exercise training. These results suggest improvements in autonomic function can be seen with reductions in adiposity, independent of cardiorespiratory fitness changes in obese adults.

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