Effect of High-Intensity Interval Training on Total, Abdominal and Visceral Fat Mass: A Meta-Analysis



High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is promoted as a time-efficient strategy to improve body composition.


The aim of this meta-analysis was to assess the efficacy of HIIT in reducing total, abdominal, and visceral fat mass in normal-weight and overweight/obese adults.


Electronic databases were searched to identify all related articles on HIIT and fat mass. Stratified analysis was performed using the nature of HIIT (cycling versus running, target intensity), sex and/or body weight, and the methods of measuring body composition. Heterogeneity was also determined


A total of 39 studies involving 617 subjects were included (mean age 38.8 years ± 14.4, 52% females). HIIT significantly reduced total (p = 0.003), abdominal (p = 0.007), and visceral (p = 0.018) fat mass, with no differences between the sexes. A comparison showed that running was more effective than cycling in reducing total and visceral fat mass. High-intensity (above 90% peak heart rate) training was more successful in reducing whole body adiposity, while lower intensities had a greater effect on changes in abdominal and visceral fat mass. Our analysis also indicated that only computed tomography scan or magnetic resonance imaging showed significant abdominal and/or visceral fat-mass loss after HIIT interventions.


HIIT is a time-efficient strategy to decrease fat-mass deposits, including those of abdominal and visceral fat mass. There was some evidence of the greater effectiveness of HIIT running versus cycling, but owing to the wide variety of protocols used and the lack of full details about cycling training, further comparisons need to be made. Large, multicenter, prospective studies are required to establish the best HIIT protocols for reducing fat mass according to subject characteristics.

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Correspondence to Nathalie Boisseau.

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Florie Maillard, Bruno Pereira and Nathalie Boisseau declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.

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Maillard, F., Pereira, B. & Boisseau, N. Effect of High-Intensity Interval Training on Total, Abdominal and Visceral Fat Mass: A Meta-Analysis. Sports Med 48, 269–288 (2018) doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0807-y

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