Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biological Sciences (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Biological Sciences


Jason Robert Carter


The relationship between obesity and heart rate variability (HRV) has been studied in adults and adolescents, but is not determined in young pediatrics. The purpose of this study was to assess autonomic activity using HRV in a pediatric population. We hypothesized that obese children would have reduced parasympathetic and increased sympathetic activity compared to age-matched subjects. 42 pediatric subjects (ages 3-5) were classified into 3 groups based on body mass index-for-age; normal, overweight and obese. HRV and respiratory rate were recorded during 3 minute baseline, 2 minute isometric handgrip and 3 minute recovery. HRV was analyzed in the time domain [heart rate (HR), RR interval (RRI) and RRI standard deviation (RRISD)] and frequency domain [low frequency (LF), high frequency (HF) and LF/HF ratio] using repeated measures ANOVA. Spearman’s correlations were used to examine the relations between BMI and HRV at rest. Significant condition effects were found between baseline, exercise and recovery, but these responses were not significantly different between the normal, overweight and obese children. BMI was negatively correlated with LF/HF, while BMI was positively correlated with RRISD, LF, HF and nHF. Our data demonstrate that higher BMI in the pediatric population is correlated with higher parasympathetic and lower sympathetic activity. These findings are contrary to HRV responses observed in adults and adolescents, suggesting complex relationships between age, obesity and autonomic control of the heart. The data supports the concept of an age reliance of HRV and a novel relationship between adiposity and body mass index in 3-5 year olds.

Included in

Biology Commons