VO2max trainability and high intensity interval training in humans: a meta-analysis

PLoS One. 2013 Sep 16;8(9):e73182. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0073182. eCollection 2013.

Abstract

Endurance exercise training studies frequently show modest changes in VO2max with training and very limited responses in some subjects. By contrast, studies using interval training (IT) or combined IT and continuous training (CT) have reported mean increases in VO2max of up to ~1.0 L · min(-1). This raises questions about the role of exercise intensity and the trainability of VO2max. To address this topic we analyzed IT and IT/CT studies published in English from 1965-2012. Inclusion criteria were: 1)≥ 3 healthy sedentary/recreationally active humans <45 yrs old, 2) training duration 6-13 weeks, 3) ≥ 3 days/week, 4) ≥ 10 minutes of high intensity work, 5) ≥ 1:1 work/rest ratio, and 6) results reported as mean ± SD or SE, ranges of change, or individual data. Due to heterogeneity (I(2) value of 70), statistical synthesis of the data used a random effects model. The summary statistic of interest was the change in VO2max. A total of 334 subjects (120 women) from 37 studies were identified. Participants were grouped into 40 distinct training groups, so the unit of analysis was 40 rather than 37. An increase in VO2max of 0.51 L · min(-1) (95% CI: 0.43 to 0.60 L · min(-1)) was observed. A subset of 9 studies, with 72 subjects, that featured longer intervals showed even larger (~0.8-0.9 L · min(-1)) changes in VO2max with evidence of a marked response in all subjects. These results suggest that ideas about trainability and VO2max should be further evaluated with standardized IT or IT/CT training programs.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

This publication was partially supported by Grant Number UL1 TR000135 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), the Mayo Foundation, and Caywood Professorship to MJJ. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.