Selective reductions of cardiac autonomic responses to light bicycle exercise with aging in healthy humans

Daniela Lucini, Manfredo Cerchiello, Massimo Pagani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examined on 56 (age 38±2 [range: 16-60] years) healthy subjects the effects of aging on cardiovascular autonomic responses to progressive supine bicycle exercise of light intensity. Autoregressive spectral analysis of RR interval and systolic arterial pressure (SAP) variabilities provided measures of the exercise-induced changes in baroreflex gain (by index α) and in sympathetic and vagal modulation of the SA node (by the normalized low [LF] and high frequency [HF] component of RR interval variability, respectively), as well as of changes in sympathetic vasomotor control (LF SAP). For each hemodynamic and autonomic variable, the gain of the response was expressed both as individual step increments, and as the slope of the linear regression of the sequential data points from rest and during the three steps of exercise. Age resulted significantly correlated to changes in spectral derived markers of SA modulation (LFRR, HFRR and index α). Conversely, no significant relationships were found with changes in RR interval, in SAP and indices of vascular regulation (LF SAP). In addition, exercise-induced changes in indices of SA node regulation were more evident in the youngest tertile (age 25±1 years), compared to the oldest tertile (age 52±1 years). In conclusion, we have observed that aging progressively and selectively reduces the cardiac autonomic excitatory response to light exercise, while hemodynamic and vascular responsiveness are maintained.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-63
Number of pages9
JournalAutonomic Neuroscience: Basic and Clinical
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 30 2004


  • Baroreflex
  • Computer analysis
  • Heart rate variability
  • Sympathetic nervous system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems


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