High-intensity aerobic, but not resistance or combined, exercise training improves both cardiometabolic health and skeletal muscle mitochondrial dynamics

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2023 Oct 1;135(4):763-774. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00405.2023. Epub 2023 Aug 24.


This study investigated how different exercise training modalities influence skeletal muscle mitochondrial dynamics. Healthy [average body mass index (BMI): 25.8 kg/m2], sedentary younger and older participants underwent 12 wk of supervised high-intensity aerobic interval training (HIIT; n = 13), resistance training (RT; n = 14), or combined training (CT; n = 11). Mitochondrial structure was assessed using transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Regulators of mitochondrial fission and fusion, cardiorespiratory fitness (V̇o2peak), insulin sensitivity via a hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp, and muscle mitochondrial respiration were assessed. TEM showed increased mitochondrial volume, number, and perimeter following HIIT (P < 0.01), increased mitochondrial number following CT (P < 0.05), and no change in mitochondrial abundance after RT. Increased mitochondrial volume associated with increased mitochondrial respiration and insulin sensitivity following HIIT (P < 0.05). Increased mitochondrial perimeter associated with increased mitochondrial respiration, insulin sensitivity, and V̇o2peak following HIIT (P < 0.05). No such relationships were observed following CT or RT. OPA1, a regulator of fusion, was increased following HIIT (P < 0.05), whereas FIS1, a regulator of fission, was decreased following HIIT and CT (P < 0.05). HIIT also increased the ratio of OPA1/FIS1 (P < 0.01), indicative of the balance between fission and fusion, which positively correlated with improvements in respiration, insulin sensitivity, and V̇o2peak (P < 0.05). In conclusion, HIIT induces a larger, more fused mitochondrial tubular network. Changes indicative of increased fusion following HIIT associate with improvements in mitochondrial respiration, insulin sensitivity, and V̇o2peak supporting the idea that enhanced mitochondrial fusion accompanies notable health benefits of HIIT.NEW & NOTEWORTHY We assessed the effects of 12 wk of supervised high-intensity interval training (HIIT), resistance training, and combined training (CT) on skeletal muscle mitochondrial abundance and markers of fission and fusion. HIIT increased mitochondrial area and size and promoted protein changes indicative of increased mitochondrial fusion, whereas lessor effects were observed after CT and no changes were observed after RT. Furthermore, increased mitochondrial area and size after HIIT associated with improved mitochondrial respiration, cardiorespiratory fitness, and insulin sensitivity.

Keywords: HIIT; fission; fusion; mitochondria; resistance exercise.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases*
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Mitochondrial Dynamics
  • Muscle, Skeletal

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.23826006