Purpose: Heart rate variability (HRV) reflects a healthy autonomic nervous system and is increased with physical training. Methamphetamine dependence (MD) causes autonomic dysfunction and diminished HRV. We compared recently abstinent methamphetamine-dependent participants with age-matched, drug-free controls (DF) and also investigated whether HRV can be improved with exercise training in the methamphetamine-dependent participants.
Methods: In 50 participants (MD = 28; DF = 22), resting heart rate (HR; R-R intervals) was recorded over 5 min while seated using a monitor affixed to a chest strap. Previously reported time domain (SDNN, RMSSD, pNN50) and frequency domain (LFnu, HFnu, LF/HF) parameters of HRV were calculated with customized software. MD were randomized to thrice-weekly exercise training (ME = 14) or equal attention without training (MC = 14) over 8 wk. Groups were compared using paired and unpaired t-tests. Statistical significance was set at P ≤ 0.05.
Results: Participant characteristics were matched between groups (mean ± SD): age = 33 ± 6 yr; body mass = 82.7 ± 12 kg, body mass index = 26.8 ± 4.1 kg·min−2. Compared with DF, the MD group had significantly higher resting HR (P < 0.05), LFnu, and LF/HF (P < 0.001) as well as lower SDNN, RMSSD, pNN50, and HFnu (all P < 0.001). At randomization, HRV indices were similar between ME and MC groups. However, after training, the ME group significantly (all P < 0.001) increased SDNN (+14.7 ± 2.0 ms, +34%), RMSSD (+19.6 ± 4.2 ms, +63%), pNN50 (+22.6% ± 2.7%, +173%), HFnu (+14.2 ± 1.9, +60%), and decreased HR (−5.2 ± 1.1 bpm, −7%), LFnu (−9.6 ± 1.5, −16%), and LF/HF (−0.7 ± 0.3, −19%). These measures did not change from baseline in the MC group.
Conclusions: HRV, based on several conventional indices, was diminished in recently abstinent, methamphetamine-dependent individuals. Moreover, physical training yielded a marked increase in HRV, representing increased vagal modulation or improved autonomic balance.