Sports Medicine

, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 733–746 | Cite as

Effect of High-Intensity Interval Training on Fitness, Fat Mass and Cardiometabolic Biomarkers in Children with Obesity: A Randomised Controlled Trial

  • Katrin A. Dias
  • Charlotte B. Ingul
  • Arnt E. Tjønna
  • Shelley E. Keating
  • Sjaan R. Gomersall
  • Turid Follestad
  • Mansoureh S. Hosseini
  • Siri M. Hollekim-Strand
  • Torstein B. Ro
  • Margrete Haram
  • Else Marie Huuse
  • Peter S. W. Davies
  • Peter A. Cain
  • Gary M. Leong
  • Jeff S. CoombesEmail author
Original Research Article



Paediatric obesity significantly increases the risk of developing cardiometabolic diseases across the lifespan. Increasing cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) could mitigate this risk. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) improves CRF in clinical adult populations but the evidence in paediatric obesity is inconsistent.


The objectives of this study were to determine the efficacy of a 12-week, HIIT intervention for increasing CRF and reducing adiposity in children with obesity.


Children with obesity (n = 99, 7–16 years old) were randomised into a 12-week intervention as follows: (1) HIIT [n = 33, 4 × 4-min bouts at 85–95% maximum heart rate (HRmax), interspersed with 3 min of active recovery at 50–70% HRmax, 3 times/week] and nutrition advice; (2) moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) [n = 32, 44 min at 60–70% HRmax, 3 times/week] and nutrition advice; and (3) nutrition advice only (nutrition) [n = 34]. CRF was quantified through a maximal exercise test (\( \dot{V}{\text{O}}_{{2_{\text{peak}} }} \)) while adiposity was assessed using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and air-displacement plethysmography.


HIIT stimulated significant increases in relative \( \dot{V}{\text{O}}_{{2_{\text{peak}} }} \) compared with MICT (+3.6 mL/kg/min, 95% CI 1.1–6.0, P = 0.004) and the nutrition intervention (+5.4 mL/kg/min, 95% CI 2.9–7.9, P = 0.001). However, the intervention had no significant effect on visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue, whole body composition or cardiometabolic biomarkers (P > 0.05).


A 12-week, HIIT intervention was highly effective in increasing cardiorespiratory fitness when compared with MICT and nutrition interventions. While there were no concomitant reductions in adiposity or blood biomarkers, the cardiometabolic health benefit conferred through increased CRF should be noted.

Clinical trials registration number; NCT01991106.



The authors thank Ms Rachel Haddow for holding the nutrition consultations with participants and their families at The University of Queensland, as well as Mr. Aiman Al Najjar and Mrs. Nicole Atcheson for their magnetic resonance imaging technical support. Cardiorespiratory fitness assessments and exercise sessions were conducted at the core facility NeXt Move, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


This work was supported by St Olav’s Hospital and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Grant no. 9527), Sports Medicine Australia Research Foundation, and The Wesley and St Andrew’s Research Institute (Grant no. 2014-01). Shelley E. Keating is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Early Career Fellowship.

Conflict of interest

Jeff S. Coombes reports grants outside the submitted work from Coca Cola and Renew Corp and personal fees from Tolmar and Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals. Shelley E. Keating reports grants outside the submitted work from Exercise and Sports Science Australia and Diabetes Australia. Sjaan R. Gomersall reports grants outside the submitted work from Exercise and Sports Science Australia and Cycling Victoria. Katrin A. Dias, Charlotte B. Ingul, Arnt E. Tjonna, Turid Follestad, Mansoureh S. Hosseini, Siri M. Hollekim-Strand, Torstein B. Ro, Margrete Haram, Else Marie Huuse, Peter SW. Davies, Peter A. Cain and Gary M. Leong have no conflicts of interest directly relevant to the content of this article.

Ethics Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Regional Committee for Medical and Health Research Ethics (Reference no. 2009/1313-4), The University of Queensland Human Research Ethics Committee (Reference no. 2013000539), The Mater Hospital Human Research Ethics Committee (Reference no. HREC/13/MHS/119/AM01) and the Uniting Care Health Human Research Ethics Committee (Reference no. 1324), and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Consent to Participate

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

40279_2017_777_MOESM1_ESM.docx (113 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 114 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katrin A. Dias
    • 1
  • Charlotte B. Ingul
    • 2
    • 3
  • Arnt E. Tjønna
    • 2
  • Shelley E. Keating
    • 1
  • Sjaan R. Gomersall
    • 4
  • Turid Follestad
    • 5
  • Mansoureh S. Hosseini
    • 2
  • Siri M. Hollekim-Strand
    • 2
  • Torstein B. Ro
    • 6
    • 7
  • Margrete Haram
    • 8
  • Else Marie Huuse
    • 8
  • Peter S. W. Davies
    • 9
  • Peter A. Cain
    • 10
  • Gary M. Leong
    • 11
    • 12
  • Jeff S. Coombes
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Human Movement and Nutrition SciencesThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Circulation and Medical ImagingNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway
  3. 3.Helse Midt-Norge RHFStjørdalNorway
  4. 4.School of Health and Rehabilitation SciencesThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  5. 5.Department of Public Health and General Practice, Faculty of MedicineNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway
  6. 6.Department of Cancer Research and Molecular MedicineNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway
  7. 7.Department of PediatricsSt. Olav’s University HospitalTrondheimNorway
  8. 8.Department of Radiology and Nuclear MedicineTrondheim University HospitalTrondheimNorway
  9. 9.Children’s Nutrition Research CentreThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  10. 10.Heart Care PartnersThe Wesley HospitalBrisbaneAustralia
  11. 11.Institute for Molecular BioscienceThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  12. 12.Department of Paediatric EndocrinologyLady Cilento Children’s HospitalBrisbaneAustralia

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