Heart Rate Variability in Collegiate Dancers
Ten female dancers ages 18-22 participated in a study measuring heart rate variability (HRV) over the course of one term in a collegiate dance department. HRV was measured at the same time in the morning once per week over 14 weeks. Additionally, dancer participants completed a weekly Recovery-Stress Questionnaire for Athletes (RESTQ-Sport) survey to assess variables of wellbeing including self-reported fatigue, well-being and perceived risk of injury alongside a separate weekly survey of self-reported dance exposure. Magnitude-based inferences (MBI) were utilized to determine the practical significance of changes in data using standardized differences in means, or effect size (ES). Results from the study reveal a distinct downward trend in cardiac vagal modulation over the course of a dance term, paired with an increased perception of fatigue and decreased perception of general well-being. These findings suggest that students may be experiencing not only a perceived state of fatigue during the high-stress environment at the end of an academic term, but early stages of physiological overtraining. These data point toward the importance of rest and recovery in collegiate dancers and the need for thoughtful, planned and periodized training from dance educators in higher education.