Changes in exercise capacity and serum BDNF following long-term sprint interval training in well-trained cyclists

Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2019 May;44(5):499-506. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2018-0427. Epub 2018 Oct 4.


The study determined the effects of sprint interval training on the acute and chronic changes of serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and aerobic capacity. Twenty-six cyclists were divided into experimental (E) and control groups. Both groups executed a 6-month exercise intervention involving high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and continuous endurance training (CET) with group E replacing HIIT and CET sessions with sprint interval training (SIT) that was executed twice a week. Two exercise tests were administered prior to the intervention and at 2 and 6 months after study outset. Incremental exercise test assessed aerobic capacity by measuring maximal oxygen uptake and work output; the sprint interval exercise test (SIXT) comprises 3 sets of four 30-s all-out repetitions interspersed with 90 s of rest with sets separated by 25-40 min of active recovery. Oxygen uptake, work output, BDNF, and vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A) concentrations (baseline, 10 min after first set, and 10 and 60 min after third SIXT set) were taken during the SIXT. Significant decreases in BDNF relative to baseline values were observed 10 min after the first set and 60 min after the third set in group E at the 2- and 6-month assessments. Increases in baseline VEGF-A after 2 and 6 months of training and increases in maximal oxygen uptake after 2 months of training were also observed only in group E. The inclusion of SIT with HIIT and CET shows positive long-term effects, including increased maximal oxygen uptake and baseline VEGF-A and a reduction in BDNF below baseline levels during and after SIXT.

Keywords: aerobic capacity; brain-derived neurotrophic factor; capacité aérobie; consommation maximale d’oxygène; cyclistes; cyclists; entraînement par intervalle de sprint; facteur de croissance de l’endothélium vasculaire; facteur neutrophique dérivé du cerveau; maximal oxygen uptake; sprint interval training; vascular endothelial growth factor.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bicycling*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / blood*
  • Endurance Training
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • High-Intensity Interval Training*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / blood
  • Young Adult


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • VEGFA protein, human
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • BDNF protein, human