High-intensity interval versus moderate-intensity continuous half-marathon training programme for middle-aged women

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2020 May;120(5):1083-1096. doi: 10.1007/s00421-020-04347-z. Epub 2020 Mar 19.


Purpose: To test the effectiveness on recreational female middle-aged runners of a programme of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for a half-marathon race contrasted to a conventional moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT).

Methods: Twenty recreational female runners (40 ± 7 years) followed MICT or HIIT schedules for training a half-marathon. The MICT group trained a mean of 32 km/week at intensities below 80% VO2max. The HIIT group ran 25 km/week at intensities between 80 and 100% VO2max, combined with uphill running and resistance training. Women following HIIT ran 21% less distance and invested 17% less time than those from MICT group. All the women were evaluated at the beginning and end of the training and participated in the same half-marathon run.

Results: Women following both schedules reduced their previous finishing times by 2-3%, which for HIIT group would have meant rising up to 90 positions out of 1454 participants in the local half-marathon race. The high intensity performed during series of high power output (200 m and 400 m) and resistance sessions in HIIT programme promoted changes that allowed modifying efficiency at high workloads. At the same time, the HIIT training programme elicited changes in oxygen uptake and transport as indicated the cardiorespiratory parameters obtained during recovery in lab tests. Moreover, HIIT registered a 14% baseline decrease in heart rate contrasting to the not significant 6% decrease in MICT.

Conclusions: Runners following HIIT training obtained similar registers as with a traditional MICT schedule, expending less time and running shorter distances, yet improving their anaerobic and aerobic power.

Keywords: Aerobic performance; Half-marathon; High-intensity interval training; Moderate-intensity continuous training; Women.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure
  • Female
  • High-Intensity Interval Training / methods*
  • Humans
  • Marathon Running / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen Consumption*
  • Resistance Training / methods*