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OBJECTIVE: to determine the differences associated with age and endurance exercise training on the baroreflex function of healthy subjects. DESIGN: cross-sectional study. SETTING: university research department. PARTICIPANTS: 26 (10 female) sedentary, healthy, normotensive elderly subjects (mean age 67 years, range 62-81), eight (two female) elderly endurance-trained athletes (66 years, 62-69) and eight (two female) young (30 years, 25-34) subjects. MEASUREMENTS: baroreflex sensitivity was quantified by the alpha-index, at high frequency (HF, 0.15-0.35 Hz) and mid frequency (MF, 0.05-0.15 Hz), derived from spectral and cross-spectral analysis of spontaneous fluctuations in heart rate and blood pressure. RESULTS: resting heart rate was significantly lower in endurance-trained athletes than sedentary elderly people (58 +/- 12 versus 68 +/- 11 min(-1), P < 0.05) but not different to that in healthy young subjects (63 +/- 9 min[-1]). alpha(HF) in sedentary elderly subjects (8.1 +/- 4.2 Hg[-1]) was lower than both endurance-trained elderly athletes (14.8 +/- 4.8 Hg(-1), P < 0.05) and healthy young subjects (28.3 +/- 21.8 Hg(-1), P < 0.05) and was not significantly different between endurance-trained elderly athletes and healthy young subjects (P = 0.10). alpha(MF) in healthy young subjects (15.4 +/- 8.8 Hg[-1]) was greater than in sedentary elderly subjects (6.5 +/- 3.2 Hg(-1), P < 0.01) and endurance-trained elderly athletes (6.9 +/- 2.0 ms.mmHg(-1), P < 0.01), while there was no significant difference between the two elderly groups (P = 0.66). CONCLUSIONS: both components of the baroreflex measured by the alpha-index show a decrease with age. Elderly endurance-trained athletes have less reduction in the high, but not mid, frequency component of the alpha-index compared with sedentary elderly subjects. Some of the age-related changes in baroreflex sensitivity may be related to physical fitness and activity levels.

Original publication




Journal article


Age Ageing

Publication Date





289 - 294


Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Baroreflex, Blood Pressure Monitors, Cross-Sectional Studies, Electrocardiography, Female, Geriatric Assessment, Heart Rate, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Physical Education and Training, Physical Endurance, Reference Values, Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted