Training-related modulations of the autonomic nervous system in endurance athletes: is female gender cardioprotective?

Fürholz, Monika; Radtke, Thomas; Roten, Laurent; Tanner, Hildegard; Wilhelm, Ilca; Schmid, Jean-Paul; Saner, Hugo; Wilhelm, Matthias (2013). Training-related modulations of the autonomic nervous system in endurance athletes: is female gender cardioprotective? European journal of applied physiology, 113(3), pp. 631-40. Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag 10.1007/s00421-012-2474-x

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The risk of sudden death is increased in athletes with a male predominance. Regular physical activity increases vagal tone, and may protect against exercise-induced ventricular arrhythmias. We investigated training-related modulations of the autonomic nervous system in female and male endurance athletes. Runners of a 10-mile race were invited. Of 873 applicants, 68 female and 70 male athletes were randomly selected and stratified according to their average weekly training hours in a low (≤4 h) and high (>4 h) volume training group. Analysis of heart rate variability was performed over 24 h. Spectral components (high frequency [HF] and low frequency [LF] power in normalized units) were analyzed for hourly 5 min segments and averaged for day- and nighttime. One hundred and fourteen athletes (50 % female, mean age 42 ± 7 years) were included. No significant gender difference was observed for training volume and 10-mile race time. Over the 24-h period, female athletes exhibited a higher HF and lower LF power for each hourly time-point. Female gender and endurance training hours were independent predictors of a higher HF and lower LF power. In female athletes, higher training hours were associated with a higher HF and lower LF power during nighttime. In male athletes, the same was true during daytime. In conclusion, female and male athletes showed a different circadian pattern of the training-related increase in markers of vagal tone. For a comparable amount of training volume, female athletes maintained their higher markers of vagal tone, possibly indicating a superior protection against exercise-induced ventricular arrhythmias.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Cardiovascular Disorders (DHGE) > Clinic of Cardiology

UniBE Contributor:

Tanner, Hildegard; Saner, Hugo and Wilhelm, Matthias








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Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:37

Last Modified:

22 Jul 2020 09:18

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URI: (FactScience: 222136)

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