Comparison of High-Intensity Interval Training and Moderate-to-Vigorous Continuous Training for Cardiometabolic Health and Exercise Enjoyment in Obese Young Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial

PLoS One. 2016 Jul 1;11(7):e0158589. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0158589. eCollection 2016.


Objective: The aim of this study was to compare the effects of 5-week high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and moderate-to-vigorous intensity continuous training (MVCT) on cardiometabolic health outcomes and enjoyment of exercise in obese young women.

Methods: A randomized controlled experiment was conducted that involved thirty-one obese females (age range of 18-30) randomly assigned to either HIIT or MVCT five-week training programs. Participants in HIIT condition performed 20 min of repeated 8 s cycling interspersed with 12 s rest intervals, and those in MVCT condition cycled continuously for 40 min at 60-80% of peak oxygen consumption ([Formula: see text]O2peak), both for four days in a week. Outcomes such as [Formula: see text]O2peak, body composition estimated by bioimpedance analysis, blood lipids, and serum sexual hormones were measured at pre-and post-training. The scores of Physical Activity Enjoyment Scale (PAES) were collected during the intervention.

Results: After training, [Formula: see text]O2peak increased significantly for both training programs (9.1% in HIIT and 10.3% in MVCT) (p = 0.010, η2 = 0.41). Although MVCT group had a significant reduction in total body weight (TBW, -1.8%, p = 0.034), fat mass (FM, - 4.7%, p = 0.002) and percentage body fat (PBF, -2.9%, p = 0.016), there were no significant between-group differences in the change of the pre- and post-measures of these variables. The HIIT group had a higher score on PAES than the MVCT group during the intervention. For both conditions, exercise training led to a decline in resting testosterone and estradiol levels, but had no significant effect on blood lipids.

Conclusion: Both HIIT and MVCT are effective in improving cardiorespiratory fitness and in reducing sexual hormones in obese young women; however, HIIT is a more enjoyable and time-efficient strategy. The mild-HIIT protocol seems to be useful for at least maintaining the body weight among sedentary individuals.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Composition
  • Body Weight
  • Diet
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood
  • High-Intensity Interval Training / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood
  • Myocardium / metabolism*
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Oxygen Consumption*
  • Young Adult


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Lipids

Grants and funding

ZK received a research grant funded by University of Macau (MYRG027(Y1-L1)-FED11-KZW). The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.