Resting cardiac autonomic activity and body composition following a 16-week high-intensity functional training intervention in women: A pilot study

Emily Bechke, Brian Kliszczewicz, Yuri Feito, Hannah Kelemen, Brett Nickerson


High-Intensity Functional Training (HIFT) is an increasingly popular mixed modal high-intensity training style with little empirical evidence regarding adaptations. The objective of this study was to examine alterations in resting cardiac autonomic activity through the measurement of heart rate variability (HRV) and body composition in women following 16-weeks of HIFT. Nine apparently healthy females (35.8 ± 9.3 years old) participated in this study. Resting heart rate (RHR), HRV, and body composition measures were collected pre and post 16-weeks of the HIFT intervention. The markers of HRV used were the Root Mean Square of Successive Differences (RMSSD) and High-Frequency (HF) power. Body composition markers used were body fat percentage (BF%) and body mass (BM). A natural log transformation (ln) was applied to HRV markers prior to analysis. Paired sample t-test showed significant reductions in post RHR (p = 0.018) and BF% (p = 0.012). However, no significant changes were observed in post lnRMSSD (p = 0.501), lnHF (p = 0.760), or BM (p = 0.285). 16-weeks of HIFT was not sufficient to alter makers of HRV. Importantly, the participation in 16-weeks of HIFT elicited improvements in basic health measures (RHR and BF%) in recreationally active females.




Billman, G. E. (2013). The LF/HF ratio does not accurately measure cardiac sympatho-vagal balance. Front Physiol, 4, 26.

Borresen, J., & Lambert, M. I. (2008). Autonomic control of heart rate during and after exercise : measurements and implications for monitoring training status. Sports Med, 38(8), 633–646.

Buchheit, M., Papelier, Y., Laursen, P. B., & Ahmaidi, S. (2007). Noninvasive assessment of cardiac parasympathetic function: postexercise heart rate recovery or heart rate variability? Am J Physiol - Heart Circ Physiol, 293(1), H8–H10.

Carlson, S. A., Fulton, J. E., Schoenborn, C. A., & Loustalot, F. (2010). Trend and Prevalence Estimates Based on the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Am J Prev Med, 39(4), 305–313.

Carter, J. B., Banister, E. W., & Blaber, A. P. (2003). Effect of Endurance Exercise on Autonomic Control of Heart Rate. Sports Med, 33(1), 33–46.

Carter, J., Beister, E., & Blaber, A. (2003). The effect of age and gender on heart rate variability after endurance training. Med Sci Sports Exer, 35(8), 1333–1340.

Dekker, J. M., Crow, R. S., Folsom, A. R., Hannan, P. J., Liao, D., Swenne, C. A., & Schouten, E. G. (2000). Low heart rate variability in a 2-minute rhythm strip predicts risk of coronary heart disease and mortality from several causes: the ARIC Study. Atherosclerosis Risk In Communities. Circulation, 102(11), 1239–1244.

Edwards, E. (2014). State of Physical Activity in Women: A Call to Action. ACSM Fit Society, 16(3), 3.

Esco, M. R., & Flatt, A. A. (2014). Ultra-short-term heart rate variability indexes at rest and post-exercise in athletes: evaluating the agreement with accepted recommendations. J Sports Sci Medic, 13(3), 535–541.

Forte, R., De Vito, G., & Figura, F. (2003). Effects of dynamic resistance training on heart rate variability in healthy older women. Euro J Appl Physiol, 89(1), 85–89.

Goldberger, J. J., Le, F. K., Lahiri, M., Kannankeril, P. J., Ng, J., & Kadish, A. H. (2006). Assessment of parasympathetic reactivation after exercise. Am J Physiol - Heart Circ Physiol, 290(6), H2446–H2452.

Heinrich, K. M., Patel, P. M., O’Neal, J. L., & Heinrich, B. S. (2014). High-intensity compared to moderate-intensity training for exercise initiation, enjoyment, adherence, and intentions: an intervention study. BMC Pub Health, 14, 789.

Hickson, R. C., Hagberg, J. M., Ehsani, A. A., & Holloszy, J. O. (1981). Time course of the adaptive responses of aerobic power and heart rate to training. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 13(1), 17–20.

Jurca, R., Church, T. S., Morss, G. M., Jordan, A. N., & Earnest, C. P. (2004). Eight weeks of moderate-intensity exercise training increases heart rate variability in sedentary postmenopausal women. Am Heart J, 147(5), e8–e15.

Kiviniemi, A. M., Hautala, A. J., Kinnunen, H., & Tulppo, M. P. (2007). Endurance training guided individually by daily heart rate variability measurements. Euro J Appl Physiol, 101(6), 743–751.

Kliszczewicz, B., Feito, Y., Bycura, D., Brown, D., & Price, B. (2016). Vagal Response to 15-weeks of High-Intensity Functional Training: A Pilot Study. J Sport Hum Perf, 4(3).

Kliszczewicz, B. M., Esco, M. R., Quindry, J. C., Blessing, D. L., Oliver, G. D., Taylor, K. J., & Price, B. M. (2016). Autonomic Responses to an Acute Bout of High-Intensity Body Weight Resistance Exercise vs. Treadmill Running. J Strength Con Res, 30(4), 1050–1058.

Kuo, T. B. J., Lin, T., Yang, C. C. H., Li, C.-L., Chen, C.-F., & Chou, P. (1999). Effect of aging on gender differences in neural control of heart rate. Am J Physiol - Heart Circ Physiol, 277(6), H2233–H2239.

Levy, W. C., Cerqueira, M. D., Harp, G. D., Johannessen, K.-A., Abrass, I. B., Schwartz, R. S., & Stratton, J. R. (1998). Effect of endurance exercise training on heart rate variability at rest in healthy young and older men. Am J Cardiol, 82(10), 1236–1241.

Malik, M. (1996). Heart rate variability: standards of measurement, physiological interpretation and clinical use. Task Force of the European Society of Cardiology and the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology. Circulation, 93(5), 1043–1065.

Melanson, E. L., & Freedson, P. S. (2001). The effect of endurance training on resting heart rate variability in sedentary adult males. Euro J Appl Physiol, 85(5), 442–449.

Parekh, A., & Lee, C. (2005). Heart rate variability after isocaloric exercise bouts of different intensities. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 37(4), 599–605.

Ryan, S. M., Goldberger, A. L., Pincus, S. M., Mietus, J., & Lipsitz, L. A. (1994). Gender- and age-related differences in heart rate dynamics: Are women more complex than men? J Am Coll Cardiol, 24(7), 1700–1707.

Stanley, J., Peake, J. M., & Buchheit, M. (2013). Cardiac Parasympathetic Reactivation Following Exercise: Implications for Training Prescription. Sports Med, 43(12), 1259–1277.

Thompson, W (2016). Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2017 : ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal. Retrieved November 21, 2016, from

Tulppo, M. P., Hautala, A. J., Mäkikallio, T. H., Laukkanen, R. T., Nissilä, S., Hughson, R. L., & Huikuri, H. V. (2003). Effects of aerobic training on heart rate dynamics in sedentary subjects. J Appl Physiol, 95(1), 364–372.

Tulppo, M. P., Mäkikallio, T. H., Seppänen, T., Laukkanen, R. T., & Huikuri, H. V. (1998). Vagal modulation of heart rate during exercise: effects of age and physical fitness. Am J Physiol - Heart Circ Physiol, 274(2), H424–H429.

Whaley, M., Brubaker, P., Otto, R., & Armstrong, L. (2005). ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (9th ed.). US: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Yamamoto, K., Miyachi, M., Saitoh, T., Yoshioka, A., & Onodera, S. (2001). Effects of endurance training on resting and post-exercise cardiac autonomic control. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 33(9), 1496–1502.

Yeragani, V. K., Sobolewski, E., Kay, J., Jampala, V. C., & Igel, G. (1997). Effect of age on long-term heart rate variability. Cardiovasc Res, 35(1), 35–42.

Zarins, Z., Wallis, G., Faghihnia, N., Johnson, M., Fattor, J., Horning, M., & Brooks, G. (2009). Effects of endurance training on cardiorespiratory fitness and substrate partitioning in postmenopausal women. LWW, 58(9), 1338–1346.