Low-Frequency HIIT Improves Body Composition and Aerobic Capacity in Overweight Men

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2020 Jan;52(1):56-66. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002097.


Background: The relationship between the frequency of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and the resultant adaptations is largely unclear.

Purpose: This study compared the effects of different frequencies of HIIT with those of moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) on body composition in overweight or obese adults.

Methods: Fifty-six overweight or obese (body mass index = 26.4 ± 2.9) men between 18 and 30 yr old (age = 22.8 ± 3.1 yr) were randomly assigned to the following groups: no-intervention control (CON; n = 14), MICT performed thrice weekly (MICT×3/wk; n = 9), HIIT performed thrice weekly (HIIT×3/wk; n = 14), HIIT performed twice weekly (HIIT×2/wk; n = 10), and HIIT performed once weekly (HIIT×1/wk; n = 9). Each HIIT session consisted of 12 × 1-min bouts at 90% heart rate reserve, interspersed with 11 × 1-min bouts at 70% heart rate reserve. Aerobic capacity, body composition, resting heart rate, vascular function, insulin resistance, and biomarkers of metabolic syndrome risk factor were examined at baseline, after 4 wk, and after 8 wk of intervention.

Results: Aerobic capacity and percent fat-free mass significantly increased in all exercise groups compared with those in the CON group (CON vs all exercise groups, P < 0.05), whereas body fat mass and systolic blood pressure significantly decreased after 8 wk of intervention in all exercise groups compared with those in the CON group (CON vs all exercise groups, P < 0.05). Body fat mass significantly decreased after 4 wk in all HIIT groups compared with those in the CON group (CON vs all HIIT groups, P < 0.05) but not in the MICT×3/wk group.

Conclusion: These novel results demonstrated that performing HIIT once weekly, even with a lower weekly volume of exercise, improved cardiorespiratory fitness, body composition, and blood pressure in overweight/obese adults. Low-frequency HIIT might be a feasible and effective strategy for the prescription of an initial exercise program for inactive, overweight, or obese young men.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Body Fat Distribution
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiorespiratory Fitness / physiology*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • High-Intensity Interval Training / adverse effects
  • High-Intensity Interval Training / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Overweight / physiopathology*
  • Overweight / therapy
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult