European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 118, Issue 6, pp 1153–1167 | Cite as

Effects of low-volume high-intensity interval training in a community setting: a pilot study

  • Dejan Reljic
  • Felix Wittmann
  • Joachim E. Fischer
Original Article



High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is emerging as an effective and time-efficient exercise strategy for health promotion. However, most HIIT studies are conducted in laboratory settings and evidence regarding the efficacy of time-efficient “low-volume” HIIT is based mainly on demanding “all-out” protocols. Thus, the aim of this pilot study was to assess the feasibility and efficacy of two low-volume (≤ 30 min time-effort/week), non-all-out HIIT protocols, performed 2 ×/week over 8 weeks in a community-based fitness centre.


Thirty-four sedentary men and women were randomised to either 2 × 4-min HIIT (2 × 4-HIIT) or 5 × 1-min HIIT (5 × 1-HIIT) at 85–95% maximal heart rate (HRmax), or an active control group performing moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT, 76 min/week) at 65–75% HRmax.


The exercise protocols were well tolerated and no adverse events occurred. 2 × 4-HIIT and 5 × 1-HIIT exhibited lower dropout rates (17 and 8 vs. 30%) than MICT. All training modes improved VO2max (2 × 4-HIIT: + 20%, P < 0.01; 5 × 1-HIIT: + 27%, P < 0.001; MICT: + 16%, P < 0.05), but the HIIT protocols required 60% less time commitment. Both HIIT protocols and MICT had positive impact on cholesterol profiles. Only 5 × 1-HIIT significantly improved waist circumference (P < 0.05) and subjective work ability (P < 0.05).


The present study indicates that low-volume HIIT can be feasibly implemented in a community-based setting. Moreover, our data suggest that practical (non-all-out) HIIT that requires as little as 30 min/week, either performed as 2 × 4-HIIT or 5 × 1-HIIT, may induce significant improvements in VO2max and cardiometabolic risk markers.


HIIT Real-world setting Cardiorespiratory fitness Cardiometabolic health Feasibility Time-efficient exercise 


2 × 4-HIIT

2 × 4 min high-intensity interval training protocol

5 × 1-HIIT

5 × 1 min high-intensity interval training protocol


Analysis of variance


Blood glucose


Chronic Pain Grade Questionnaire




High-density lipoprotein


High-intensity interval training


Heart rate


Maximal heart rate




Low-density lipoprotein


Mean arterial blood pressure


Metabolic Syndrome Z-Score




Moderate-intensity continuous training


Millilitres per kilogram body mass per minute


Millimoles per liter




Onset of blood lactate accumulation


Perceived Stress Questionnaire




Maximal oxygen uptake




Work Ability Index


Waist circumference


Maximal power output



No funding was received for this study. We would like to thank the Pfitzenmeier Premium Club Mannheim Neckarau headed by Haki Kadria and Tobias Kleine-Nathland for their outstanding cooperation. In particular, we thank Esther Giesewetter, André Luqueba, Stephan Steinicke, Danijel Ber, Paula Rosenfelder, and Daniel Lambor for supervising the exercise classes. We would also like to thank Wiebke Würdemann and Irina Peil for their professional assistance during data collection. We thank David Litaker for his valuable assistance and proofreading the manuscript. We are especially grateful to all study participants for their willingness to participate in this study.

Author contributions

DR and JF conceived and designed research. DR and FW conducted measurements and exercise tests. DR analyzed data. DR wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medicine 1-Gastroenterology, Pneumology and Endocrinology, Hector-Center for Nutrition, Exercise and SportsUniversity Hospital ErlangenErlangenGermany
  2. 2.Mannheim Institute of Public Health, Social and Preventive Medicine, Medical Faculty MannheimHeidelberg UniversityMannheimGermany

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