Background: Chinese university freshmen receive 4-weeks military training that involved moderate to intense physical exercise. Studies have demonstrated heterogeneous effects of exercise on the autonomic nervous system.
Objective: To evaluate the effects of training on the autonomic nervous system noninvasively using electrogastrograms, heart rate variability (HRV), pulse rate, and the sympathetic skin response (SSR).
Methods: Twenty freshmen received all assessments in the fasting state and after a standard meal: (1) one week before the training, (2) at the end of the second week of the training, and (3) one week after the training.
Results: (1) The training had a significant effect on meal-induced gastric pacemaker activity. Before the training, a standard meal did not increase the dominant frequency of gastric slow waves, but the frequency increased during and after the training; (2) The preprandial high frequency (HF), low frequency (LF), and very low frequency (VLF) components of heart rate variability decreased significantly after the training. The ratio of the LF and HF (LF/HF) of the heart rate variability (HRV) did not significantly change after a meal or training condition. The basal pulse rate did not change. The latencies of the sympathetic skin response (SSR), as measured in the arm muscle, increased in response to the training.
Conclusion: Military training affects meal-induced changes in gastric pacemaker activity, causes a marked reduction of the vagal tone to the heart with maintenance of the vagal-sympathetic balance, and its effects on SSR may reflect a reduction in sympathetic tone.