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.
© 2017 World Obesity Federation.