Vagal modulation and symptomatology following a 6-month aerobic exercise programme for women with fibromyalgia

Borja Sañudo, Luis Carrasco, Moisés de Hoyo, Arturo Figueroa, John M. Saxton

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31 Scopus citations


Objective. To examine the effects of a supervised aerobic exercise programme on heart rate variability (HRV) parameters and symptom severity in women with fibromyalgia (FM). Methods. Thirty-two women with FM were randomly allocated to one of two groups: aerobic exercise (AE) or usual care control for 24 weeks. Women allocated to AE performed two aerobic exercise sessions per week of 45-60 min duration including 15-20 min of steady-state aerobic exercise at 60-65% of predicted maximum heart rate (HRmax) and 15 min of interval training at 75-80% HRmax (six repetitions of 1.5 min, with 1 min interpolated rest intervals). Cardiac autonomic modulation was assessed using power spectral analysis of HRV. Symptom severity was assessed by a 10 cm visual analogue scale (VAS) for pain, sleep disturbances, stiffness, anxiety and depression. Results. After 24 weeks, the women in the exercise group showed an increase (4.8±0.2 to 5.2±0.2) in total power (LnTP, p<0.001), low frequency power (LnLF, p<0.01), high frequency power (LnHF, p<0.001), and the root-meansquare of successive R-R intervals (rMSSD, p<0.001). In addition, significant group-by-time interaction effects were observed for LnHF (p=0.036) and LnLF/HF (p=0.014). Improvements in anxiety and depression were also observed in AE versus control patients. Conclusion. These results show that a programme of aerobic exercise training induced changes in cardiac autonomic nervous system modulation in FM and that these changes in HRV parameters were accompanied by changes in anxiety and depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S41-S45
JournalClinical and Experimental Rheumatology
StatePublished - 2015


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Exercise training
  • Heart rate variability
  • Symptom severity


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