Calculating Heart Rate Variability from ECG Data from Youth with Cerebral Palsy During Active Video Game Sessions

This article has been accepted and is currently in production


The aim of this study was to generate a method for calculating heart rate variability (HRV) from electrocardiogram (ECG) waveforms. The waveforms were recorded by a HR monitor that participants (youth with cerebral palsy (CP)) wore during active video game (AVG) sessions. The AVG sessions were designed to promote physical activity and fitness (aerobic performance) in participants. The goal was to evaluate the feasibility of AVGs as a physical therapy (PT) intervention strategy. The maximum HR (mHR) was determined for each participant and the Target Heart Rate Zone (THRZ) was calculated for each of three exercise phases in the 20 min AVG session: (warm-up at 40-60% mHR, conditioning at 60-80% mHR, and cool down at 40-60% mHR). Each participant played three 20 min games during the AVG session. All games were played while sitting on a bench because many youth with CP cannot stand for extended periods of time. Each game condition differed with participants using hand icons only, hand and feet icons together or feet icons only to collect objects. The objective of the game (called KOLLECT) is to collect objects to gain points and avoid hazards to not lose points. Hazards were used in the warm-up and cool down phases only to promote slower, controlled movement to maintain HR in the target heart rate zone (THRZ). There were no hazards in the conditioning phase to promote higher levels and more intense physical activity. Analytic methods were used to generate HRV (selected time-domain and frequency-domain measures) from ECG data to examine aerobic workload. Recent applications of HRV indicate that short-term measurements (5 min bouts) are appropriate and that HRV biofeedback may help improve symptoms and the quality of life in a variety of health conditions. Although HR is a well-accepted clinical measure to examine aerobic performance and intensity in PT interventions, HRV may provide information of the autonomic system functions, recovery and adaptation during AVG sessions.