Adults’ cardiac autonomic regulation during exercise and in relation to peak oxygen uptake is well understood, however the situation in children is sparsely documented. Heart rate variability (HRV) analysis provides a non-invasive tool to research sympathovagal balance. A predominance of parasympathetic mediated modulation is characterized by a greater degree of HRV and vice versa. The available data indicate the child’s response to be similar to that observed in adults; heart rate increase arises through withdrawal of parasympathetic modulation with ensuing increase in sympathetic modulation; aerobic training increases HRV and a positive correlation between peak oxygen uptake and a parasympathetic preponderance.
The author is with the Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre, University of Exeter, Exeter, Devon, UK.