Background: Whilst there is increasing interest in the efficacy of high-intensity interval training in children and adolescents as a time-effective method of eliciting health benefits, there remains little consensus within the literature regarding the most effective means for delivering a high-intensity interval training intervention. Given the global health issues surrounding childhood obesity and associated health implications, the identification of effective intervention strategies is imperative.
Objectives: The aim of this review was to examine high-intensity interval training as a means of influencing key health parameters and to elucidate the most effective high-intensity interval training protocol.
Methods: Studies were included if they: (1) studied healthy children and/or adolescents (aged 5-18 years); (2) prescribed an intervention that was deemed high intensity; and (3) reported health-related outcome measures.
Results: A total of 2092 studies were initially retrieved from four databases. Studies that were deemed to meet the criteria were downloaded in their entirety and independently assessed for relevance by two authors using the pre-determined criteria. From this, 13 studies were deemed suitable. This review found that high-intensity interval training in children and adolescents is a time-effective method of improving cardiovascular disease biomarkers, but evidence regarding other health-related measures is more equivocal. Running-based sessions, at an intensity of >90% heart rate maximum/100-130% maximal aerobic velocity, two to three times a week and with a minimum intervention duration of 7 weeks, elicit the greatest improvements in participant health.
Conclusion: While high-intensity interval training improves cardiovascular disease biomarkers, and the evidence supports the effectiveness of running-based sessions, as outlined above, further recommendations as to optimal exercise duration and rest intervals remain ambiguous owing to the paucity of literature and the methodological limitations of studies presently available.