A scoping review of heart rate variability in sport and exercise psychology: guidance for best practice

Emma Mosley, Sylvain Laborde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sport and Exercise Psychology (SEP) often adopts physiological markers in theory and practice, and one measure receiving increasing attention is heart rate variability (HRV). This paper aimed to provide a scoping review of the use of HRV within SEP. The protocol was made available on the Open Science Framework. Study inclusion criteria were examination of HRV in SEP, using athletes or healthy populations, peer-reviewed and published in English. Exclusion criteria were non-peer reviewed work, animal studies, clinical populations, review or conference papers. In February 2022 a systematic search of Web of Science, PubMed and Sport Discus identified 118 studies (4979 participants) using HRV in sport psychology (71) or exercise psychology (47). Risk of bias was assessed via the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool. A narrative synthesis revealed that HRV was assessed within a range of topics such as stress, overtraining, anxiety, biofeedback, cognitive performance, and sporting performance. Three key limitations within the field were discovered: limited application of theoretical frameworks, methodological issues with HRV measurement, and differing interpretations of HRV results. Future research should use vagally-mediated HRV as a marker of self-regulation and adaptation in SEP, consult relevant HRV theories prior to hypothesis development, and follow methodological guidelines
for HRV.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 15 Jun 2022


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