High intensity interval training (HIIT) improves resting blood pressure, metabolic (MET) capacity and heart rate reserve without compromising cardiac function in sedentary aging men

Exp Gerontol. 2018 Aug:109:75-81. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2017.05.010. Epub 2017 May 13.


Background: This study examined a programme of pre-conditioning exercise with subsequent high intensity interval training (HIIT) on blood pressure, echocardiography, cardiac strain mechanics and maximal metabolic (MET) capacity in sedentary (SED) aging men compared with age matched masters athletes (LEX).

Methods: Using a STROBE compliant observational design, 39 aging male participants (SED; n=22, aged 62.7±5.2yrs) (LEX; n=17, aged=61.1±5.4yrs) were recruited to a study that necessitated three distinct assessment phases; enrolment (Phase A), following pre-conditioning exercise in SED (Phase B), then following 6weeks of HIIT performed once every five days by both groups before reassessment (Phase C). Hemodynamic, echocardiographic and cardiac strain mechanics were obtained at rest and maximal cardiorespiratory and chronotropic responses were obtained at each measurement phase.

Results: The training intervention improved systolic, mean arterial blood pressure, rate pressure product and heart rate reserve (each P<0.05) in SED and increased MET capacity in both SED and LEX (P<0.01) which was amplified by HIIT. Echocardiography and cardiac strain measures were unremarkable apart from trivial increase to intra-ventricular septum diastole (IVSd) (P<0.05) and decrease to left ventricular internal dimension diastole (LVId) (P<0.05) in LEX following HIIT.

Conclusions: A programme of preconditioning exercise with HIIT induces clinically relevant improvements in blood pressure, rate pressure product and encourages recovery of heart rate reserve in SED, while improving maximal MET capacity in both SED and LEX without inducing any pathological cardiovascular remodeling. These data add to the emerging repute of HIIT as a safe and promising exercise prescription to improve cardiovascular function and metabolic capacity in sedentary aging.

Keywords: Aging; Blood pressure; Cardiac structure; Cardiovascular function; High intensity interval training (HIIT).

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Heart Rate*
  • High-Intensity Interval Training*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Sedentary Behavior*