PURPOSE: The deep breathing test (DBT) is a sensitive test of cardiovagal function. The aim of this study was to explore associations between physical activity and sedentary time, measured by accelerometer, and autonomic function, using DBT.

METHODS: In the Swedish Cardio-Pulmonary bioImage Study, men and women aged 50-64 were randomly invited from the general population. A total of 4325 subjects who underwent DBT and assessment of physical activity and sedentary time by accelerometery were included. ECG files from 1-min DBT were used to calculate measures of respiratory sinus arrhythmia [RSA; expiration-inspiration (E-I) difference and E/I ratio], heart rate variability [HRV; root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD), standard deviation of heart rates and mean circular resultant]. Low RSA and HRV was defined as the lowest 10% in the population.

RESULTS: For accelerometer-assessed physical activity, there were significant associations between high percentage of sedentary time and low E/I (p < 0.01), and low RMSSD (p < 0.01) in an age- and sex-adjusted model, and between percentage of sedentary time and low RMSSD (p = 0.04) in a risk factor-adjusted model. Low RMSSD was less common in those with a high percentage of moderate to vigorous physical activity (p = 0.04, after risk-factor adjustment). These associations became non-significant when further adjusting for heart rate.

CONCLUSION: We report associations between degree of physical activity and indices of autonomic dysfunction in a large population. The relationships were no longer significant after adjustments for heart rate, indicating that the relationship between physical activity and cardiovagal function partly is accounted for by reduced heart rate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-420
JournalClinical autonomic research : official journal of the Clinical Autonomic Research Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Aug

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Cardiac and Cardiovascular Systems

Free keywords

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Exercise/physiology
  • Heart
  • Heart Rate/physiology
  • Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia/physiology
  • Sweden/epidemiology
  • Middle Aged


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