Sports Medicine

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 33–46 | Cite as

Effect of Endurance Exercise on Autonomic Control of Heart Rate

  • James B. CarterEmail author
  • Eric W. Banister
  • Andrew P. Blaber
Review Article


Long-term endurance training significantly influences how the autonomic nervous system controls heart function. Endurance training increases parasympathetic activity and decreases sympathetic activity in the human heart at rest. These two training-induced autonomic effects, coupled with a possible reduction in intrinsic heart rate, decrease resting heart rate. Long-term endurance training also decreases submaximal exercise heart rate by reducing sympathetic activity to the heart. Physiological ageing is associated with a reduction in parasympathetic control of the heart; this decline in parasympathetic activity can be reduced by regular endurance exercise. Some research has indicated that females have increased parasympathetic and decreased sympathetic control of heart rate. These gender-specific autonomic differences probably contribute to a decreased cardiovascular risk and increased longevity observed in females.


Heart Rate Variability Sympathetic Activity Endurance Training Endurance Exercise Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors have provided no information on conflicts of interest directly relevant to the content of this review. This research was supported by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of British Columbia and the Yukon.


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Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • James B. Carter
    • 1
    Email author
  • Eric W. Banister
    • 1
  • Andrew P. Blaber
  1. 1.School of KinesiologySimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

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