PT Critically Appraised Topics

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Critically Appraised Topic

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Clinical Scenario

High intensity interval training (HIIT) has become a popular form of exercise for the layman and elite athletes alike. I was introduced to HIIT by a coach who claimed that this was the best new form of endurance training to improve cardiovascular fitness. High intensity interval training has been suggested as an attractive alternative to standard endurance training due to the decreased time commitment required. I would like to determine what research has shown in regards to the effectiveness of this new trend in training as measured by maximal oxygen uptake.

Clinical Question

Does high intensity interval training produce equivalent results, as measured by maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max), to standard endurance training in athletic populations?

Clinical Bottom Line

High intensity interval training is no better or worse than traditional endurance training according to research from Tabata et al and Sperlich et al. Each study included developing athletes under the age of 30 years and compared the maximal oxygen uptake achieved under high intensity interval training to the maximal oxygen uptake achieved under hour long endurance protocols. Using these two studies, I do not feel comfortable saying that one method is better than the other at increasing maximal oxygen uptake, however I do feel comfortable saying that I would choose high intensity interval training for athletes that are short on time and need the same results as traditional endurance training. While HIIT did not always show increased maximal oxygen uptake as compared to the control, it never resulted in results that were less effective than the control. The decreased time requirement of HIIT makes this a more cost/time efficient option. More research into the physiological benefits or drawbacks of HIIT is necessary to define the appropriate protocol and the presence of any increased physiological benefits beyond those gained from traditional training. For example, Tabata et al also measured the anaerobic change that occurred with training, which may be a more precise or useful piece of information for athletes that depend on bursts of energy. Based on the outcomes of Tabata et al and Sperlich et al it is clear that further research is necessary for solid clinical application of high intensity interval training to athletic populations to increase maximal oxygen uptake.