Effects of sprint interval training on VO2max and aerobic exercise performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2013 Dec;23(6):e341-52. doi: 10.1111/sms.12092. Epub 2013 Jul 25.


Recently, several studies have examined whether low-volume sprint interval training (SIT) may improve aerobic and metabolic function. The objective of this study was to systematically review the existing literature regarding the aerobic and metabolic effects of SIT in healthy sedentary or recreationally active adults. A systematic literature search was performed (Bibliotek.dk, SPORTDiscus, Embase, PEDro, SveMed+, and Pubmed). Meta-analytical procedures were applied evaluating effects on maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max). Nineteen unique studies [four randomized controlled trials (RCTs), nine matched-controlled trials and six noncontrolled studies] were identified, evaluating SIT interventions lasting 2-8 weeks. Strong evidence support improvements of aerobic exercise performance and VO2max following SIT. A meta-analysis across 13 studies evaluating effects of SIT on VO2max showed a weighted mean effects size of g = 0.63 95% CI (0.39; 0.87) and VO2max increases of 4.2-13.4%. Solid evidence support peripheral adaptations known to increase the oxidative potential of the muscle following SIT, whereas evidence regarding central adaptations was limited and equivocal. Some evidence indicated changes in substrate oxidation at rest and during exercise as well as improved glycemic control and insulin sensitivity following SIT. In conclusion, strong evidence support improvement of aerobic exercise performance and VO2max following SIT, which coincides with peripheral muscular adaptations. Future RCTs on long-term SIT and underlying mechanisms are warranted.

Keywords: VO2max; aerobic power; high-intensity interval training; metabolism.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Anaerobic Threshold
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Physical Endurance
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Running / physiology*