European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 109, Issue 4, pp 617–624 | Cite as

Increased heart rate variability and executive performance after aerobic training in the elderly

  • Cédric T. Albinet
  • Geoffroy Boucard
  • Cédric A. Bouquet
  • Michel Audiffren
Original Article


This study examined the effects of two short physical training programs on various parameters of heart rate variability (HRV) and on executive performance in older people. Twenty-four sedentary men and women aged 65–78 years were randomly assigned to an aerobic exercise program or a stretching program three times a week for 12 weeks. Resting HRV was measured in time and frequency domains in each participant before and after the 12-week programs. Executive performance was measured with the Wisconsin card sorting test (WCST). Significant group–session interactions emerged for the standard deviation of normal beat-to-beat (R–R) intervals, the root-mean-square of successive R–R, and high frequency power. Only the aerobic training group increased vagal-mediated HRV parameters. Moreover, only the participants in the aerobic training group improved their performance on the WCST. These results highlight the role of aerobic exercise as an important cardiac and brain protective factor, and suggest a direct link between exercise, HRV, and cognition in the aged population.


Exercise Autonomic nervous system Cognition Aging High frequency power 



This work was supported by grants from Région Poitou-Charentes (Contrat de Projets Etat-Region 2007-2013, Axis C: Developing regional excellence in the field of health, Program “Observatory and platform on ageing and handicap”) and the University of Poitiers Action Concertée Incitative J 811. The authors greatly thank A. Abou-Dest for technical assistance and the exercise trainers G. Amossé, S. Cousson, M. Jaffrenou, L. Pouquet, and P. Talbot. This study complies with the current laws of the country in which it was performed.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cédric T. Albinet
    • 1
  • Geoffroy Boucard
    • 1
  • Cédric A. Bouquet
    • 1
  • Michel Audiffren
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Sport SciencesUniversity of Poitiers, CeRCA, CNRS-UMR 6234PoitiersFrance

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