Autonomic dysfunction has been reported in patients with NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) and is associated with clinical presentations. To date, there are no therapies to improve autonomic regulation in people with NAFLD. The present study defines the impact of a short-term exercise programme on cardiac autonomic and haemodynamic regulation in patients with NAFLD. A total of 17 patients with clinically defined NAFLD [age, 55±12 years; BMI (body mass index), 33±5 kg/m2; liver fat, 17±9%] were randomized to 8 weeks of resistance exercise or a control group to continue standard care. Resting and submaximal exercise (50% of peak oxygen consumption) autonomic and cardiac haemodynamic measures were assessed before and after the intervention. Resistance exercise resulted in a 14% reduction in HR (heart rate) and 7% lower SBP (systolic blood pressure) during submaximal exercise (16 beats/min, P=0.03 and 16 mmHg, P=0.22). Sympathovagal balance, expressed as LF/HF (low-frequency/high-frequency) ratio of the mean HR beat-to-beat (R–R) interval, was reduced by 37% (P=0.26). Similarly sympathovagal balance of DBP (diastolic blood pressure) and SBP variability decreased by 29% (P=0.33) and 19% (P=0.55), respectively in the exercise group only. BRS (baroreflex sensitivity) increased by 31% (P=0.08) following exercise. The mean R–R interval increased by 23% (159 ms, P=0.09). Parasympathetic regulation was decreased by 17% (P=0.05) and overall sympathovagal balance in BP regulation (LF/HF ratio) increased by 26% (P=0.02) following resistance exercise. Resting haemodynamic measures remained similar between groups. Resistance exercise therapy seems to improve autonomic and submaximal exercise haemodynamic regulation in NAFLD. Further studies are required to define its role in clinical management of the condition.

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