People with type 1 diabetes (T1D) have lower exercise capacity (V̇O2max) than their age‐matched nondiabetic counterparts (CON), which might be related to cardiac autonomic dysfunction. We examined whether Heart Rate Variability (HRV; indicator of cardiac autonomic modulation) was associated with exercise capacity in those with and without T1D. Twenty‐three participants with uncomplicated T1D and 17 matched CON were recruited. Heart rate (HR; ECG), blood pressure (BP; finger photo‐plethysmography), and respiratory rate (respiratory belt) were measured during baseline, paced‐breathing and clinical autonomic reflex tests (CARTs); deep breathing, lying‐to‐stand, and Valsalva maneuver. Baseline and paced‐breathing ECG were analyzed for HRV (frequency‐domain). Exercise capacity was determined during an incremental cycle ergometer test while V̇O2, 12‐lead ECG, and BP were measured. In uncomplicated T1D, resting HR was elevated and resting HRV metrics were reduced, indicative of altered cardiac parasympathetic modulation; this was generally undetected by the CARTs. However, BP and plasma catecholamines were not different between groups. In T1D, V̇O2max tended to be lower (P = 0.07) and HR reserve was lower (P < 0.01). Resting Total Power (TP) had stronger positive associations with V̇O2max (R2 ≥ 0.3) than all other traditional indicators such as age, resting HR, and self‐reported exercise (R2 = 0.042–0.3) in both T1D and CON. Alterations in cardiac autonomic modulation are an early manifestation of uncomplicated T1D. Total Power was associated with reduced exercise capacity regardless of group, and these associations were generally stronger than traditional indicators
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- Autonomic nervous system
- HR reserve
- type 1 diabetes