Where does HIT fit? An examination of the affective response to high-intensity intervals in comparison to continuous moderate- and continuous vigorous-intensity exercise in the exercise intensity-affect continuum

PLoS One. 2014 Dec 8;9(12):e114541. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0114541. eCollection 2014.


Affect experienced during an exercise session is purported to predict future exercise behaviour. Compared to continuous moderate-intensity exercise (CMI), the affective response to continuous vigorous-intensity exercise (CVI) has consistently been shown to be more aversive. The affective response, and overall tolerability to high-intensity interval training (HIT), is less studied. To date, there has yet to be a comparison between HIT, CVI, and CMI. The purpose of this study was to compare the tolerability and affective responses during HIT to CVI and CMI. This study utilized a repeated measures, randomized, counter-balanced design. Forty-four participants visited the laboratory on four occasions. Baseline fitness testing was conducted to establish peak power output in Watts (W peak). Three subsequent visits involved a single bout of a) HIT, corresponding to 1-minute at ∼ 100% W peak and 1-minute at ∼ 20% W peak for 20 minutes, b) CMI, corresponding to ∼ 40% W peak for 40 minutes, and c) CVI, corresponding to ∼ 80% W peak for 20 minutes. The order of the sessions was randomized. Affective responses were measured before, during and after each session. Task self-efficacy, intentions, enjoyment and preference were measured after sessions. Participants reported greater enjoyment of HIT as compared to CMI and CVI, with over 50% of participants reporting a preference to engage in HIT as opposed to either CMI or CVI. HIT was considered more pleasurable than CVI after exercise, but less pleasurable than CMI at these times. Despite this participants reported being just as confident to engage in HIT as they were CMI, but less confident to engage in CVI. This study highlights the utility of HIT in inactive individuals, and suggests that it may be a viable alternative to traditionally prescribed continuous modalities of exercise for promoting self-efficacy and enjoyment of exercise.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Adult
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Resistance Training*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*

Grant support

This research was funded by an internal UBC grant (Hampton Research Fund). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.