Effects of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and sprint interval training (SIT) on fat oxidation during exercise: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Br J Sports Med. 2022 Jul 20:bjsports-2021-105181. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2021-105181. Online ahead of print.


Objective: To investigate the effects of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and sprint interval training (SIT) on fat oxidation during exercise (FatOx) and how they compare with the effects of moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT).

Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis.

Data sources: Academic Search Ultimate, CINAHL, Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations, Open Access Theses and Dissertations, OpenDissertations, PubMed/MEDLINE, Scopus, SPORTDiscus and Web of Science.

Eligibility criteria for selecting studies: Studies using a between-group design, involving adult participants who were not trained athletes, and evaluating effects of HIIT or SIT on FatOx (vs no exercise or MICT) were included.

Results: Eighteen studies of fair-to-good quality were included; nine comparing HIIT or SIT with no exercise and eleven comparing HIIT or SIT with MICT. A significant pooled effect of these types of interval training on FatOx was found (mean difference in g/min (MD)=0.08; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.04 to 0.12; p<0.001). Significant effects were found for exercise regimens lasting ≥4 weeks, and they increased with every additional week of training (β=0.01; 95% CI 0.00 to 0.02; p=0.003). HIIT and/or SIT were slightly more effective than MICT (MD=0.03; 95% CI 0.01 to 0.05; p=0.005). The effects on FatOx were larger among individuals with overweight/obesity.

Conclusion: Engaging in HIIT or SIT can improve FatOx, with larger effects expected for longer training regimens and individuals with overweight/obesity. While some effects seem small, they may be important in holistic approaches to enhance metabolic health and manage obesity.

Keywords: Exercise; Exercise Therapy; Meta-analysis; Metabolism; Sports medicine.

Publication types

  • Review