Autonomic recovery from peak arm exercise in fit and unfit individuals with paraplegia

Jill M. Wecht, Robert Marsico, Joseph P. Weir, Ann M. Spungen, William A. Bauman, Ronald E. De Meersman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Introduction: Altered autonomic cardiovascular control in persons with paraplegia may reflect peripheral sympathetic denervation caused by the injury or deconditioning due to skeletal muscle paralysis. Parameters of autonomic cardiovascular control may be improved in fit persons with paraplegia similar to effects reported in the noninjured population. Purpose: To determine differences in resting and recovery HR and cardiac autonomic control in fit and unfit individuals with paraplegia. Methods: Eighteen healthy males with paraplegia below T6 were studied; nine participated in aerobic exercise conditioning (fit: ≥ 30 min·d-1, ≥ 3 d·wk-1, ≥ 6 months), and nine were sedentary (unfit). Analysis of heart rate variability (HRV) was used to determine spectral power (In transformed) in the high- (InHF) and low-frequency (InLF) bandwidths, and the LF/HF ratio was calculated. Data were collected at baseline (BL) and at 2, 10, 30, 60, and 90 min of recovery from peak arm cycle ergometry. Results: The relative intensity achieved on the peak exercise test was comparable between the groups (i.e., 88% peak predicted HR). However, peak watts (P < 0.001) and oxygen consumption (P < 0.01) were higher in the fit compared with the unfit group (56 and 51%, respectively). Recovery InHF was increased (P < 0.05), and recovery InLF (P < 0.01) and LF/HF (P < 0.05) were reduced in the fit compared with the unfit group. Mean recovery autonomic activity was not different from BL in the fit group. In the unfit group, mean recovery InHF was reduced, and mean recovery InLF and LF/HF remained elevated above BL. Conclusion: These data suggest that fit individuals with paraplegia have improved cardiac autonomic control during the postexercise recovery period compared with their unfit counterparts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1223-1228
Number of pages6
JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2006


  • Endurance training
  • Postexercise sympathetic response
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Vagal cardiac control


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