Share this article on:

Heart Rate Dynamics after Combined Endurance and Strength Training in Older Men


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: July 2009 - Volume 41 - Issue 7 - p 1436-1443
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181994a91
Basic Sciences

Purpose: Aging alters cardiac autonomic function, which may contribute to a higher risk of cardiac events. Spectral measures of HR variability (HRV) and fractal-like behavior of HR are considered as markers of a healthy heart. The present study examined the effects of combining endurance and strength training compared with endurance or strength training alone on HR dynamics and physical fitness in older previously untrained men aged 40-67 yr.

Methods: Subjects were randomized into endurance training (E, n = 23), strength training (S, n = 25), combined endurance and strength training (ES, n = 29), or control group (C, n = 16). Short-term fractal scaling exponent (α 1) and spectral HRV were analyzed from maximal aerobic cycling tests and during supine rest, and leg extension one repetition maximum strength was measured.

Results: Aerobic capacity and maximal strength increased in the training groups performing endurance and/or strength training, respectively. Only ES showed a decrease after training in fractal HR behavior during exercise, and the difference was significant between groups (P = 0.019). During supine rest, α 1 only decreased significantly (P = 0.039) in ES from 1.18 (SD = 0.20) to 1.11 (SD = 0.21). The decrease in α 1 at rest from 1.21 (SD = 0.19) to 1.11 (SD = 0.22) also approached significance (P = 0.061) in E. Changes in spectral measures of HRV were minor during the study period and only occurred during exercise.

Conclusion: Fractal HR dynamics were improved more by combining strength training with endurance training in our older men compared with endurance training alone, although strength training alone produced no changes in fractal HR behavior. The synergistic effect in fractal HR behavior occurred regardless of changes in aerobic capacity.

1Department of Biology of Physical Activity, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, FINLAND; 2Department of Exercise and Medical Physiology, Verve, Oulu, FINLAND; 3Department of Medicine, Kuopio University Hospital, Kuopio, FINLAND; 4Department of Physiology, University of Kuopio, Kuopio, FINLAND; 5Central Finland Central Hospital, Jyväskylä, FINLAND; 6Polar Electro Oy, Kempele, FINLAND; 7Department of Medicine, University of Oulu, Oulu, FINLAND; and 8Department of Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, FINLAND

Address for correspondence: Laura Karavirta, M.Sc., Department of Biology of Physical Activity, PO Box 35, 40014 University of Jyväskylä, Finland; E-mail:

Submitted for publication October 2008.

Accepted for publication December 2008.

©2009The American College of Sports Medicine