Post-exercise heart rate recovery and parasympathetic reactivation are comparable between prepubertal boys and well-trained adult male endurance athletes
European Journal of Applied Physiology
School of Medical and Health Sciences / Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research
Purpose: This study tested the hypothesis that prepubertal boys, but not untrained men, would exhibit a similar post-exercise parasympathetic reactivation as well-trained adult male endurance athletes. Methods: Twelve prepubertal boys (12.3 ± 1.6 years), 14 untrained men (21.8 ± 2.2 years) and 16 well-trained adult male endurance athletes (24.5 ± 4.8 years) completed an incremental maximal run field test on a track. Immediately after exercise completion, heart rate recovery (HRR) was assessed in the supine position for 5 min. Heart rate variability was analyzed in the time domain, and log-transformed values of the root mean square of successive differences in heart beats (Ln RMSSD30) were calculated over consecutive 30 s windows. Results: Prepubertal children and well-trained adult endurance athletes showed significantly faster HRR than untrained adults from 30 s post-exercise until the end of recovery (p < 0.05). Ln RMSSD30 was significantly higher in prepubertal children and athletes than untrained adults over the post-exercise time interval 60–150 s (p < 0.05). No significant differences were observed for HRR and Ln RMSSD30 between prepubertal children and athletes. Conclusion: Prepubertal children and well-trained adult endurance athletes exhibited comparable and faster HRR and parasympathetic reactivation than untrained adults following maximal exercise. This indirectly suggests that oxidative profile may be preserved by exercise training during growth and maturation to offset the decline in post-exercise HRR, parasympathetic reactivation and aspects of metabolic health.