European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 114, Issue 7, pp 1367–1375 | Cite as

Heart rate response at the onset of exercise in an apparently healthy cohort

  • Allison Jagoda
  • Jonathan N. Myers
  • Leonard A. Kaminsky
  • Mitchell H. Whaley
Original Article



The exercise test is a powerful non-invasive tool for risk stratifying patients with or suspected of having cardiovascular disease (CVD). Heart rate (HR) response during and following exercise has been extensively studied. However, the clinical utility of HR response at the onset of exercise is less understood. Furthermore, conflicting reports exist regarding whether a faster vs. slower HR acceleration represents a CVD risk marker. The primary study purpose was to describe HR acceleration early in exercise in apparently healthy individuals.


Retrospective analyses were performed in a sample (N = 947) representing a range of age and fitness (11–78 years; VO2peak 17–49 mL kg−1 min−1). HR response was defined over the initial 7 min of the protocol. Associations between HR acceleration and CVD risk factors were also assessed.


Mean increases in HR were 18 ± 9 and 23 ± 11 beats at minute one, for men and women, respectively (p < 0.05). After adjusting for gender and pre-exercise HR, only modest associations were observed between the change in HR at minute one and body mass index, resting blood pressure, cigarette smoking, physical activity, HR reserve, and cardiorespiratory fitness.


There was wide variability in HR acceleration at the onset of exercise in this apparently healthy cohort. A lower increase in HR during the first minute of exercise was associated with a better CVD risk profile, including higher cardiorespiratory fitness, in apparently healthy individuals. These data suggest a greater parasympathetic influence at the onset of exercise may be protective in an asymptomatic population.


Graded exercise test Chronotropic response Autonomic nervous system Cardiorespiratory fitness Parasympathetic response to exercise 



Autonomic nervous system


Body mass index


Blood pressure


Ball State University


Beats per minute


Coronary artery disease


Chronotropic incompetence


Cardiovascular disease




Graded exercise test


High-density lipoprotein cholesterol


Heart rate


Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol


Metabolic equivalents

mg dl

Milligram per deciliter




Millimeters of mercury


Respiratory exchange ratio


Ratings of perceived exertion


Volume of oxygen


Single photon emission computed tomography



This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allison Jagoda
    • 1
  • Jonathan N. Myers
    • 2
  • Leonard A. Kaminsky
    • 1
  • Mitchell H. Whaley
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Human Performance Laboratory, Clinical Exercise Physiology ProgramBall State UniversityMuncieUSA
  2. 2.Division of CardiologyVeterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care SystemPalo AltoUSA
  3. 3.College of Applied Sciences and TechnologyBall State UniversityMuncieUSA

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