High-intensity intermittent activities at school: controversies and facts

J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2004 Sep;44(3):272-80.


In comparison to continuous aerobic type activity, little is known about high-intensity intermittent physical activity in children. Repeated short-term high-intensity activities (> maximal aerobic speed and <10 s) are more characteristic of the spontaneous physical activity of children. Recent studies have shown during repetitive bouts of sprints separated by short recovery intervals, that prepubescent children compared with adults are more able to maintain their performance without substantial fatigue. Moreover, repetitive runs at high velocities (near and higher than the maximal aerobic speed) separated by short recovery periods may elicit a high oxygen consumption in children. Several studies using interval training programmes for 7 weeks, twice a week for 30 min in physical education lessons showed that children's aerobic performance (maximal O2 uptake, maximal aerobic speed) could be enhanced. Training based on these repeated short-term high-intensity exercises could also improve children's anaerobic performance (short-term muscle power, strength and speed). Current evidence suggests that recovery from high-intensity exercises is faster in children than in adults and that repeated runs at high velocities separated by short recovery intervals can improve both aerobic and anaerobic performance. Although continuous aerobic type activity is more scientifically established as a training mode, repeated short-term high-intensity exercises in physical education programmes should be considered to enhance aerobic, as well as, anaerobic fitness in children.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Physical Fitness / physiology