Decrease in heart rate variability with overtraining: Assessment by the Poincaré plot analysis

Laurent Mourot, Malika Bouhaddi, Stéphane Perrey, Sylvie Cappelle, Marie Thérèse Henriet, Jean Pierre Wolf, Jean Denis Rouillon, Jacques Regnard

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166 Citations (Scopus)


Numerous symptoms have been associated with the overtraining syndrome (OT), including changes in autonomic function. Heart rate variability (HRV) provides non-invasive data about the autonomic regulation of heart rate in real-life conditions. The aims of the study were to: (i) characterize the HRV profile of seven athletes (OA) diagnosed as suffering of OT, compared with eight healthy sedentary (C) and eight trained (T) subjects during supine rest and 60° upright, and (ii) compare the traditional time- and frequency-domain analysis assessment of HRV with the non-linear Poincaré plot analysis. In the latter each R-R interval is plotted as a function of the previous one, and the standard deviations of the instantaneous (SD1) and long-term R-R interval variability are calculated. Total power was higher in T than in C and OA both in supine (1158 ± 1137, 6092 ± 3554 and 2970 ± 2947 ms2 for C, T and OA, respectively) and in upright (640 ± 499, 1814 ± 806 and 1092 ± 712 ms2 for C, T and OA, respectively; P<0.05) positions. In supine position, indicators of parasympathetic activity to the sinus node were higher in T compared with C and OA (high-frequency power: 419.1 ± 381.2, 1105.3 ± 781.4 and 463.7 ± 715.8 ms2 for C, T and OA, respectively; P<0.05; SD1: 29.5 ± 18.5, 75.2 ± 17.2 and 37.6 ± 27.5 for C, T and OA, respectively; P<0-05). OA had a marked predominance of sympathetic activity regardless of the position (LF/HF were 0.47 ± 0.35, 0.47 0.50 and 3.96 ± 5.71 in supine position for C, T and OA, respectively, and 2.09 ± 2.17, 7.22 ± 6.82 and 12.04 ± 10.36 in upright position for C, T and OA, respectively). The changes in HRV indexes induced by the upright posture were greater in T than in OA. The shape of the Poincaré plots allowed the distinction between the three groups, with wide and narrow shapes in T and OA, respectively, compared with C. As Poincaré plot parameters are easy to compute and associated with the 'width' of the scatter gram, they corroborate the traditional time- and frequency-domain analysis. We suggest that they could be used to indicate fatigue and/or prevent OT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-18
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Physiology and Functional Imaging
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Endurance training
  • Fatigue
  • Head-up tilt test
  • Overtraining syndrome
  • Spectral analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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