Improvement of Sympathovagal Balance by Regular Exercise May Counteract the Ageing Process. A Study by the Analysis of QT Variability

Beatrice De Maria, Daniela Lucini, Mariana de Oliveira Gois, Aparecida Maria Catai, Francesca Perego, Mara Malacarne, Massimo Pagani, Alberto Porta, Laura Adelaide Dalla Vecchia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


QT interval (QT) variability analysis provides pathophysiological and prognostic information utilized in cardiac and non-cardiac diseases, complementary to those obtained from the analysis of heart period (HP) variability. An increased QT variability has been associated to a higher risk for cardiac events and poorest prognosis. Autonomic cardiovascular adaptation to internal and external challenges, such those occurring in athletes exposed to high levels of physical stress and in ageing could also be deepen by analyzing QT variability, searching for early prognostic signatures. The aim of the study was to analyze the QT variability and cardiac control complexity in a group of middle-aged half-marathon runners at baseline (B) and at a 10-year follow-up (FU). We found that the overall QT variability decreased at FU, despite the inescapable increase in age (52.3 ± 8.0 years at FU). This change was accompanied by an increase of the HP variability complexity without changes of the QT variability complexity. Of notice, over the years, the group of athletes maintained their regular physical activity by switching to a moderate intensity rather than strenuous. In conclusion, regular and moderate exercise over the years was beneficial for this group of athletes, as reflected by the decreased overall QT variability that is known to be associated to lower cardiovascular risk. The concomitant enhanced cardiac control complexity also suggests a trend opposite to what usually occurs with ageing, resulting in a more flexible cardiac control, typical of younger people.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)880250
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Publication statusPublished - Apr 20 2022


  • ageing
  • athletes
  • autonomic nervous system
  • complexity
  • half-marathon
  • heart rate variability
  • physical exercise
  • QT interval variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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