The relationship between aerobic fitness and recovery from high intensity intermittent exercise

Sports Med. 2001;31(1):1-11. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200131010-00001.


A strong relationship between aerobic fitness and the aerobic response to repeated bouts of high intensity exercise has been established, suggesting that aerobic fitness is important in determining the magnitude of the oxidative response. The elevation of exercise oxygen consumption (VO2) is at least partially responsible for the larger fast component of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) seen in endurance-trained athletes following intense intermittent exercise. Replenishment of phosphocreatine (PCr) has been linked to both fast EPOC and power recovery in repeated efforts. Although 31P magnetic resonance spectroscopy studies appear to support a relationship between endurance training and PCr recovery following both submaximal work and repeated bouts of moderate intensity exercise, PCr resynthesis following single bouts of high intensity effort does not always correlate well with maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max). It appears that intense exercise involving larger muscle mass displays a stronger relationship between VO2max and PCr resynthesis than does intense exercise utilising small muscle mass. A strong relationship between power recovery and endurance fitness, as measured by the percentage VO2max corresponding to a blood lactate concentration of 4 mmol/L, has been demonstrated. The results from most studies examining power recovery and VO2max seem to suggest that endurance training and/or a higher VO2max results in superior power recovery across repeated bouts of high intensity intermittent exercise. Some studies have supported an association between aerobic fitness and lactate removal following high intensity exercise, whereas others have failed to confirm an association. Unfortunately, all studies have relied on measurements of blood lactate to reflect muscle lactate clearance, and different mathematical methods have been used for assessing blood lactate clearance, which may compromise conclusions on lactate removal. In summary, the literature suggests that aerobic fitness enhances recovery from high intensity intermittent exercise through increased aerobic response, improved lactate removal and enhanced PCr regeneration.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Recovery of Function
  • Time Factors