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Post-exercise recovery of autonomic cardiovascular control: a study by spectrum and cross-spectrum analysis in humans


The recovery of the baseline autonomic control of cardiovascular activity after exercise has not been extensively studied. In 12 healthy subjects, we assessed the time-course of recovery by autoregressive spectrum and cross-spectrum analysis of heart period and systolic blood pressure during the 3 h after the end of 20 min of steady-state exercise at 50% (light workload, LW) and 80% (moderate workload, MW) of the individual's anaerobic threshold. The electrocardiogram and non-invasive blood pressure were simultaneously recorded during 10 min periods in the sitting position, at rest before exercise, and at 15, 60 and 180 min of recovery after exercise. At 15 min we observed a persistent tachycardia and relative hypotension; after MW, at 60 min heart rate was still slightly higher. Spectrum and cross-spectrum analysis showed, at 15 min, an increase in the low frequency component of systolic blood pressure, a reduction in the high frequency component of heart rate (larger in MW), and a decrease in baroreceptor sensitivity. After 60 and 180 min none of these parameters was significantly different from those at rest, although, in MW, some subjects still displayed signs of sympathetic activation after 1 h. We concluded that, after 15 min of recovery, the cardiovascular reflexes were blunted, that sympathetic nerve activity was still enhanced, and that the tone in the vagus had not fully recovered. Only the persistent vagal restraint seemed to be exercise intensity-dependent. For complete restoration of autonomic control after LW 1 h of rest was sufficient, and just enough after MW.

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Accepted: 2 November 2000

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Terziotti, P., Schena, F., Gulli, G. et al. Post-exercise recovery of autonomic cardiovascular control: a study by spectrum and cross-spectrum analysis in humans. Eur J Appl Physiol 84, 187–194 (2001).

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  • Key words Post-exercise recovery
  • Spectrum analysis
  • Heart rate variability
  • Baroreceptor sensitivity
  • Blood pressure