High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Improves Cardiorespiratory Fitness (CRF) in Healthy, Overweight and Obese Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled Studies


High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a sustainable and effective method for improving Cardiorespiratory Fitness (CRF) in adolescents. HIIT is proven to produce equal or greater improvements in CRF when compared to moderate intensity continuous exercise (MICE) in adolescents.


The studies included were considered eligible if: (1) Participants were adolescents (11–18 years old); (2) Examined changes in CRF measured either directly or indirectly; (3) Included a non-exercising control group or MICE comparison group; (4) Participants were matched at enrolment; (5) Reported HIIT protocol information; (6) Provided HIIT intensity. A meta-analysis was conducted to determine the effect of HIIT on CRF. Meta-regression and moderator analyses were performed out to quantitatively examine moderators of protocol design on CRF improvements.


HIIT displays a moderate effect to improve CRF (g = 0.86, 95% CI 0.518–1.106, p < 0.001). Neither study duration (weeks), nor total or weekly accumulated HIIT volume (min) displayed any significant moderation effect on pooled improvement on CRF (p > 0.05).


HIIT is an effective method to improve CRF in adolescents, irrespective of body composition. Notably, meta regression analysis identified that prolonged high volume HIIT programs are similarly effective to short term low volume HIIT programs. This becomes of particular interest for those involved in school curricula, where short HIIT exercise may provide a pragmatic adjunct to the health benefits of Physical Education (PE) lessons.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17082955