European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 113, Issue 6, pp 1477–1488 | Cite as

Determinants and reference values of short-term heart rate variability in children

  • Nathalie Michels
  • Els Clays
  • Marc De Buyzere
  • Inge Huybrechts
  • Staffan Marild
  • Barbara Vanaelst
  • Stefaan De Henauw
  • Isabelle Sioen
Original Article

Abstract

This paper provides age- and sex-specific reference values for short-term heart rate variability (HRV) data in children by time domain and frequency domain methods. Furthermore, HRV determinants will be determined. In 460 children (5–10 years), 5-minute HRV measurements in supine position were undertaken with Polar chest belts. The data were manually edited and processed with time and frequency domain methods. Age, time point, physical activity (accelerometry), physical fitness (cardiopulmonary fitness, upper and lower limb muscular fitness) and body composition (body mass index, fat%, fat and fat-free mass) were analysed as determinants using multiple regression analysis stratified by sex. Sex- and age-specific reference values were produced. Overall, girls had lower HRV. Age-related parasympathetic increases and sympathetic decreases were seen with sometimes age-related year-to-year wave-like changes in boys. The time point of recording had limited influence on HRV. Of the lifestyle related factors, fatness (only 7 % overweight) was not associated with HRV but fat-free mass, physical activity and in particular physical fitness (over and above activity) had a favourable association by increased parasympathetic activity. Future HRV studies in children should consider age, sex and physical fitness.

Keywords

Heart rate variability Children Reference values Physical fitness Fast Fourier transform 

Abbreviations

BF%

Body fat percentage

ChiBS

Children’s body composition and stress

FFT

Fast Fourier transform

FM

Fat mass

FFM

Fat-free mass

HRV

Heart rate variability

HF

High frequency

ICC

Intraclass correlation

LOA

Limits of agreement

LF

Low frequency

VO2max

Maximal oxygen uptake

mRR

Mean RRI

MVPA

Moderate-to-vigorous activity

Nu

Normalized units

PA

Parasympathetic activity

pNN50

Percentage of consecutive normal RRI differing more than 50 ms

RMSSD

Root mean square of successive differences

RRI

RR intervals

SDNN

Standard deviation of the normal RRI

SA

Sympathetic activity

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nathalie Michels
    • 1
  • Els Clays
    • 1
  • Marc De Buyzere
    • 2
  • Inge Huybrechts
    • 1
  • Staffan Marild
    • 3
  • Barbara Vanaelst
    • 1
    • 4
  • Stefaan De Henauw
    • 1
    • 5
  • Isabelle Sioen
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health SciencesGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Department of CardiologyUniversity Hospital GhentGhentBelgium
  3. 3.Department of PaediatricsInstitution of Clinical Sciences Sahlgrenska Academy, Göteborg UniversityGöteborgSweden
  4. 4.Research Foundation FlandersBrusselsBelgium
  5. 5.Department of Health Sciences, VesaliusHogeschool GentGhentBelgium

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