A systematic review and meta-analysis of interval training versus moderate-intensity continuous training on body adiposity

Obes Rev. 2017 Aug;18(8):943-964. doi: 10.1111/obr.12536. Epub 2017 May 17.


Interval training (including high-intensity interval training [HIIT] and sprint interval training [SIT]) is promoted in both scientific and lay media as being a superior and time-efficient method for fat loss compared with traditional moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT). We evaluated the efficacy of HIIT/SIT when directly compared with MICT for the modulation of body adiposity. Databases were searched to 31 August 2016 for studies with exercise training interventions with minimum 4-week duration. Meta-analyses were conducted for within-group and between-group comparisons for total body fat percentage (%) and fat mass (kg). To investigate heterogeneity, we conducted sensitivity and meta-regression analyses. Of the 6,074 studies netted, 31 were included. Within-group analyses demonstrated reductions in total body fat (%) (HIIT/SIT: -1.26 [95% CI: -1.80; -0.72] and MICT: -1.48 [95% CI: -1.89; -1.06]) and fat mass (kg) (HIIT/SIT: -1.38 [95% CI: -1.99; -0.77] and MICT: -0.91 [95% CI: -1.45; -0.37]). There were no differences between HIIT/SIT and MICT for any body fat outcome. Analyses comparing MICT with HIIT/SIT protocols of lower time commitment and/or energy expenditure tended to favour MICT for total body fat reduction (p = 0.09). HIIT/SIT appears to provide similar benefits to MICT for body fat reduction, although not necessarily in a more time-efficient manner. However, neither short-term HIIT/SIT nor MICT produced clinically meaningful reductions in body fat.

Keywords: exercise; fat loss; high-intensity interval training; sprint interval training.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • High-Intensity Interval Training / methods*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Overweight / therapy*
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Loss / physiology*