High intensity interval training exercise-induced physiological changes and their potential influence on metabolic syndrome clinical biomarkers: a meta-analysis

BMC Endocr Disord. 2020 Nov 10;20(1):167. doi: 10.1186/s12902-020-00640-2.


Background: Despite the current debate about the effects of high intensity interval training (HIIT), HIIT elicits big morpho-physiological benefit on Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) treatment. However, no review or meta-analysis has compared the effects of HIIT to non-exercising controls in MetS variables. The aim of this study was to determine through a systematic review, the effectiveness of HIIT on MetS clinical variables in adults.

Methods: Studies had to be randomised controlled trials, lasting at least 3 weeks, and compare the effects of HIIT on at least one of the MetS clinical variables [fasting blood glucose (BG), high-density lipoprotein (HDL-C) triglyceride (TG), systolic (SBP) or diastolic blood pressure (DBP) and waist circumference (WC)] compared to a control group. The methodological quality of the studies selected was evaluated using the PEDro scale.

Results: Ten articles fulfilled the selection criteria, with a mean quality score on the PEDro scale of 6.7. Compared with controls, HIIT groups showed significant and relevant reductions in BG (- 0.11 mmol/L), SBP (- 4.44 mmHg), DBP (- 3.60 mmHg), and WC (- 2.26 cm). Otherwise, a slight increase was observed in HDL-C (+ 0.02 mmol/L). HIIT did not produce any significant changes in TG (- 1.29 mmol/L).

Conclusions: HIIT improves certain clinical aspects in people with MetS (BG, SBP, DBP and WC) compared to people with MetS who do not perform physical exercise. Plausible physiological changes of HIIT interventions might be related with large skeletal muscle mass implication, improvements in the vasomotor control, better baroreflex control, reduction of the total peripheral resistance, increases in excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, and changes in appetite and satiety mechanisms.

Keywords: High intensity interval training; Meta-analysis; Metabolic syndrome.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Body Composition
  • Cardiac Rehabilitation
  • Case-Control Studies
  • High-Intensity Interval Training*
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / metabolism
  • Metabolic Syndrome / therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Biomarkers