Effects of posture on heart rate variability in non-frail and prefrail individuals: a cross-sectional study

Huiling Chen, Mimi Mun Yee Tse, Joanne Wai Yee Chung, Sui Yu Yau, Thomas Kwok Shing Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Frailty is an aging-related syndrome leading to high mortality in older adults. Without effective assessment and prevention of frailty, the incidence of frailty and relevant adverse outcomes will increase by 2050 as worldwide populations age. Although evidence suggested heart rate variability (HRV) is a potential measure of frailty, the role of HRV in frailty assessment remains unclear because of controversial findings. This study examined the effects of posture on HRV parameters in non-frail and prefrail individuals to understand the role of HRV in assessing frailty. Methods: Forty-six participants aged ≥ 50 years were recruited between April and August 2022. Frailty was defined using Fried’s criteria. HRV was measured in standing, sitting, and lying postures, respectively, using a Polar Watch, and analyzed using Kubios HRV Standard 3.5.0 (Kubios). The five most commonly used parameters were examined, including standard deviations of all normal-to-normal intervals (SDNN), root mean square of the successive differences (RMSSD), low frequency (LF), high frequency (HF), and LF/HF. Independent t-tests and Mann–Whitney tests were used for inter-group comparisons. Friedman tests were used for intra-group comparisons across postures. Results: The non-frail group showed significant differences in HRV parameters across postures (all p < 0.05), whereas the prefrail group did not demonstrate any difference (all p > 0.05). The differences in the non-frail group included higher RMSSD and HF in the lying posture compared to those in the standing posture (29.54 vs 21.99 p = 0.003, 210.34 vs 96.34 p = 0.001, respectively), and higher LF and LF/HF in the sitting posture compared to those in the lying posture (248.40 vs 136.29 P = 0.024, 1.26 vs 0.77 p = 0.011, respectively). Conclusions: The effects of posture on HRV were blunted in the prefrail group, which suggests an impaired cardiac autonomic functioning. Measuring the effects of posture on HRV parameters may contribute to frailty assessment. However, further evidence from larger cohorts and including additional HRV parameters is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number870
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Difference
  • Frailty assessment
  • HRV
  • Posture


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