High-intensity interval training in stroke rehabilitation

Top Stroke Rehabil. 2013 Jul-Aug;20(4):317-30. doi: 10.1310/tsr2004-317.


After stroke, people with weakness enter a vicious cycle of limited activity and deconditioning that limits functional recovery and exacerbates cardiovascular risk factors. Conventional aerobic exercise improves aerobic capacity, function, and overall cardiometabolic health after stroke. Recently, a new exercise strategy has shown greater effectiveness than conventional aerobic exercise for improving aerobic capacity and other outcomes among healthy adults and people with heart disease. This strategy, called high-intensity interval training (HIT), uses bursts of concentrated effort alternated with recovery periods to maximize exercise intensity. Three poststroke HIT studies have shown preliminary effectiveness for improving functional recovery. However, these studies were varied in approach and the safety of poststroke HIT has received little attention. The objectives of this narrative review are to (1) propose a framework for categorizing HIT protocols; (2) summarize the safety and effectiveness evidence of HIT among healthy adults and people with heart disease and stroke; (3) discuss theoretical mechanisms, protocol selection, and safety considerations for poststroke HIT; and (4) provide directions for future research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Functional Laterality
  • Heart Diseases / rehabilitation
  • Humans
  • Locomotion
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*
  • Time Factors