Evaluating the progressive cardiovascular health benefits of short-term high-intensity interval training



High-intensity training is recognised as a time-efficient way of improving aerobic fitness. However, there is a lack of consensus regarding the temporal nature of adaptation response and which peripheral and cardiac changes occur using the same exercise stimulus and protocol. Therefore, this study aimed to evaluate the progression of vascular and cardiac changes over a 6-week training period.


Twelve healthy males (age 21 ± 2 years; 42.5 ± 8.3 ml min−1 kg−1) participated in a high-intensity training programme consisting of 1-min sprints, interspersed with 2 min active recovery, 3 days/week for 6 weeks on a cycle ergometer. Cardiac, vascular, blood lipids and VO2max measurements were taken at 0, 3 and 6 weeks and compared against a participant-matched control group (age 21 ± 2 years; 37.7 ± 8.3 ml min−1 kg−1).


There was a significant improvement in VO2max (42.5 ± 8.3–47.4 ± 8.5 ml min−1 kg−1; p = 0.009) in the training group and a significant decrease in systolic blood pressure (8%) from 0 to 6 weeks (p = 0.025). There was a small yet significant decrease in ejection fraction and increased end-systolic volume in both groups over time (p = 0.01) with no significant interaction effect (p > 0.05). A between-group difference in peak velocity of early diastolic mitral annular motion was also observed (p = 0.01). No improvements were seen in blood lipid profiles, central arterial stiffness and cardiometabolic risk score.


Six weeks of high-intensity training increases aerobic fitness and is enough to stimulate initial reductions in peripheral pressure, but not sufficient to elicit structural and functional cardiac changes, reduce arterial stiffness or lower CV risk.

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Peak velocity of late transmitral flow


Peak velocity of diastolic mitral annular motion


Augmentation index


Central augmented pressure

a-VDO2 :

Arterial–venous difference


Body mass index

COmax :

Maximal cardiac output


Cardiorespiratory fitness


Cardiovascular disease


Diastolic blood pressure


Central aortic diastolic pressure


Peak velocity of early diastolic transmitral flow


Peak velocity of early diastolic mitral annular motion


Ejection fraction


Fasting blood glucose


High-density lipoprotein cholesterol


High-intensity interval training


Heart rate


Interventricular septum thickness at end diastole


Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol


Left ventricle


Left ventricular end-diastolic volume


Left ventricular end-systolic volume


Left ventricular internal diameter end diastole


Left ventricular internal diameter end systole


Left ventricular posterior wall thickness at end diastole


Mean arterial pressure


Nitric oxide


Central aortic pulse pressure


Pulse wave velocity


Peak velocity of systolic mitral annular motion


Systolic blood pressure


Sprint interval training


Central aortic systolic pressure


Stroke volume

SVmax :

Maximal stroke volume


Total cholesterol




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We would like to thank Mark Bell and Sean Muirhead for their contribution to the exercise programme.

Author information

KH, DR and PA conceived and designed research. KH, DR and PA conducted experiments. KH, PA were involved in data analysis. KH and PA wrote the manuscript, with DR acting as advisor.

Correspondence to Kathryn Holloway.

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Communicated by Anni Vanhatalo.

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Holloway, K., Roche, D. & Angell, P. Evaluating the progressive cardiovascular health benefits of short-term high-intensity interval training. Eur J Appl Physiol 118, 2259–2268 (2018) doi:10.1007/s00421-018-3952-6

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  • High-intensity
  • Exercise training
  • Cardiac function
  • Vascular structure
  • Cardiovascular risk