Analysis of initial autonomic adjustments to moderate exercise in humans

Daniela Lucini, Vittorio Trabucchi, Alberto Malliani, Massimo Pagani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To determine whether signs of cardiac sympathetic activation (together with vagal withdrawal) can be observed in the autonomic balance modulating the sino-atrial node as early as the initial levels of a graded light dynamic exercise. Patients and methods: We studied 15 healthy ambulant subjects (mean±SD age 32±9 years; systolic/diastolic blood pressure 120± 19/77±7mmHg; heart rate 65±9 beats/min), who underwent a control recording of 10 min, followed by a three-step progressive (10, 20 and 30% of nominal maximum for age and sex) supine bicycle exercise. Spectral and cross-spectral analysis of RR and systolic arterial pressure variabilities were used to obtain non-invasive markers of the autonomic adjustments to exercise. Results: The low-frequency component of RR interval variability (which, in normalized units, is a marker of sympathetic modulation of the sino-atrial (SA) node) was progressively increased during all three stages of bicycle exercise. No significant changes were observed in the low-frequency component of systolic arterial pressure variability (i.e. a marker of sympathetic drive to the vasculature) in the early stages of exercise, while a significant increase was observed at 30% of maximum. The index a (which provides a measure of the gain of the arterial pressure-heart period baroreflex) was progressively reduced during all three stages of exercise. Conclusions: While the sympathovagal balance modulating the SA node is immediately shifted towards sympathetic predominance (and vagal withdrawal), markers of peripheral vascular sympathetic activation appear increased only when 30% of maximum exercise is attained.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1660-1663
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Hypertension
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1995


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Baroreflex
  • Computer analysis
  • Exercise
  • Sympathetic activity
  • Vagal activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology


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