Greater improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness using higher-intensity interval training in the standard cardiac rehabilitation setting

J Cardiopulm Rehabil Prev. Mar-Apr 2014;34(2):98-105. doi: 10.1097/HCR.0000000000000049.


Purpose: We tested the hypothesis that higher-intensity interval training (HIIT) could be deployed into a standard cardiac rehabilitation (CR) setting and would result in a greater increase in cardiorespiratory fitness (ie, peak oxygen uptake, (·)VO₂) versus moderate-intensity continuous training (MCT).

Methods: Thirty-nine patients participating in a standard phase 2 CR program were randomized to HIIT or MCT; 15 patients and 13 patients in the HIIT and MCT groups, respectively, completed CR and baseline and followup cardiopulmonary exercise testing.

Results: No patients in either study group experienced an event that required hospitalization during or within 3 hours after exercise. The changes in resting heart rate and blood pressure at followup testing were similar for both HIIT and MCT. (·)VO₂ at ventilatory-derived anaerobic threshold increased more (P < .05) with HIIT (3.0 ± 2.8 mL·kg⁻¹·min⁻¹) versus MCT (0.7 ± 2.2 mL·kg⁻¹·min⁻¹). During followup testing, submaximal heart rate at the end of stage 2 of the exercise test was significantly lower within both the HIIT and MCT groups, with no difference noted between groups. Peak (·)VO₂ improved more after CR in patients in HIIT versus MCT (3.6 ± 3.1 mL·kg⁻¹·min⁻¹ vs 1.7 ± 1.7 mL·kg⁻¹·min⁻¹; P < .05).

Conclusions: Among patients with stable coronary heart disease on evidence-based therapy, HIIT was successfully integrated into a standard CR setting and, when compared to MCT, resulted in greater improvement in peak exercise capacity and submaximal endurance.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Coronary Artery Bypass / rehabilitation*
  • Exercise Test
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / rehabilitation*
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Percutaneous Coronary Intervention / rehabilitation*
  • Physical Exertion / physiology