Skip to main content
Log in

Performance for short intermittent runs: active recovery vs. passive recovery

  • Original Article
  • Published:
European Journal of Applied Physiology Aims and scope Submit manuscript


The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of active vs. passive recovery on the time to exhaustion for intermittent runs (15 s) at supramaximal velocity (120% of maximal aerobic speed). Twelve male subjects performed a graded test, an intermittent run to exhaustion with active recovery (50% of maximal aerobic speed) and an intermittent run to exhaustion with passive recovery. Results showed that intermittent runs to exhaustion with passive recovery [745 (171) s] allowed subjects to run for a significantly longer (p<0.001) time than intermittent runs to exhaustion with active recovery [445 (79) s]. These results could be explained by a significantly higher (p<0.001) energy requirement for intermittent runs with active recovery [59.9 (9.6) ml·kg−1·min−1] than for intermittent runs with passive recovery [48.9 (6.9) ml·kg−1·min−1]. It could be also hypothesized that the energy required to run during short active recovery would result in less oxygen being available to reload myoglobin and haemoglobin, to remove lactate concentrations and to resynthesize the phosphocreatine. Consequently, for intermittent runs with short recovery periods, passive recovery will induce a longer time to exhaustion than active recovery.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 4.

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Arsac LM, Locatelli E (2002) Modeling the energetics of 100-m running by using speed curves of world champions. J Appl Physiol 92:1781–1788

    Google Scholar 

  • Åstrand I, Åstrand PO, Christensen EH, Hedman R (1960) Intermittent muscular work. Acta Physiol Scand 48:448–453

    Google Scholar 

  • Bahr R (1992) Excess post exercise oxygen consumption magnitude, mechanisms and practical implications. Acta Physiol Scand 605(144):36

    Google Scholar 

  • Balsom PD, Gaitanos GC, Ekblom B, Sjödin B (1994) Reduced oxygen availability during high intensity intermittent exercise impairs performance. Acta Physiol Scand 152:279–285

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Berthoin S, Pelayo P, Lensel-Corbeil G, Robin H, Gerbeaux M (1996) Comparison of maximal aerobic speed as assessed with laboratory and field measurements in moderately trained subjects. Int J Sports Med 17(7):525–529

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Billat VL (2001) Interval training for performance: a scientific and empirical practice. Special recommendations for middle- and long-distance running. Part I: Aerobic interval training. Sports Med 31(1):13–31

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Billat VL, Slawinski J, Bocquet V, Chassaing P, Demarle A, Koralsztein JP (2001) Very short (15 s 15 s) interval-training around the critical velocity allows middle-aged runners to maintainO2max for 14 minutes. Int J Sports Med 22:201–208

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bogdanis GC, Nevill ME, Lakomy HKA, Graham CM, Louis G (1996) Effects of active recovery on power output during repeated maximal sprint cycling. Eur J Appl Physiol 74(5):461–469

    Google Scholar 

  • Bonen A, Belcastro AN (1976) Comparison of self-selected recovery methods on lactic-acid removal rates. Med Sci Sports Exerc 8(3):176–178

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Christensen EH, Hedman R, Saltin B (1960) Intermittent and continuous running. Acta Physiol Scand 50:269–286

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Christmass MA, Dawson B, Passeretto P, Arthur P (1999) A comparison of skeletal muscle oxygenation and fuel use in sustained continuous and intermittent exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol 80(5):423–435

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • di Prampero PE, Ferretti G (1999) The energetics of anaerobic muscle metabolism: a reappraisal of older and recent concepts. Respir Physiol 118:103–115

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • di Prampero PE, Atchou G, Brückner JC, Moia C (1986) The energetics of endurance running. Eur J Appl Physiol 55:259–266

    Google Scholar 

  • Dupont G, Blondel N, Lensel G, Berthoin S (2002) Critical velocity and time spent at a high level ofO2 for short intermittent runs at supramaximal velocities. Can J Appl Physiol 27(2):103–115

    Google Scholar 

  • Fox EL, Robinson S, Wiegman DL (1969) Metabolic energy sources during continuous and interval running. J Appl Physiol 27:174–178

    Google Scholar 

  • Gaitanos G, Williams C, Boobis LH, Brooks S (1993) Human muscle metabolism during intermittent maximal exercise. J Appl Physiol 75:712–719

    Google Scholar 

  • Gupta S, Goswami A, Sadhukhan AK, Mathur DN (1996) Comparative study of lactate removal in short massage of extremities, active recovery and a passive recovery period after supramaximal exercise sessions. Int J Sports Med 17(2):106–110

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Harris RC, Edwards RHT, Hultman E, Nordesjo LO, Nylind B, Sahlin K (1976) The time course of phosphorylcreatine resynthesis during recovery of the quadriceps muscle in man. Pflugers Arch 367:137–142

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Haseler LJ, Hogan MC, Richardson RC (1999) Skeletal muscle phosphocreatine recovery in exercise-trained humans is dependent on O2 availability. J Appl Physiol 86(6):2013–2018

    Google Scholar 

  • Kamber M (1992) Laktatmessungen in der Sportmedizin: Messmethodenvergleich. Schweiz. Ztschr Sportmed 40:77–86

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Komi PV, Kaneko M, Aura O (1987) EMG activity of the leg extensor muscles with special reference to mechanical efficiency in concentric and eccentric exercise. Int J Sports Med 8(1):22–29

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Leger L, Boucher R (1980) An indirect continuous running multistage field test: the University de Montréal Track Test. Can J Appl Sports Sci 5(2):77–84

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • McCully KK, Iotti S, Kendrick K, Wang Z, Posner JD, Leigh J, Chance B (1994) Simultaneous in vivo measurements of HbO2 saturation and PCr kinetics after exercise in normal humans. J Appl Physiol 77(1):5–10

    Google Scholar 

  • McLaughlin JE, King GA, Howley ET, Bassett DR Jr, Ainsworth BE (2001) Validation of the COSMED K4 b2 portable metabolic system. Int J Sports Med 22:280–284

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Signorile JF, Ingalls C, Tremblay LM (1993) The effects of active and passive recovery on short-term, high-intensity power output. Can J Appl Physiol 18(1):31–42

    Google Scholar 

  • Tabata I, Irisawa K, Kouzaki M, Nishimura K, Ogita F, Miyachi M (1997) Metabolic profile of high intensity intermittent exercises. Med Sci Sports Exerc 29(3):390–395

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Taoutaou Z, Granier P, Mercier B, Mercier J, Ahmaidi S, Prefaut C (1996) Lactate kinetics during passive and partially active recovery in endurance and sprint athletes. Eur J Appl Physiol 73:465–470

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Wenger HA, Bell GJ (1986) The interactions of intensity, frequency and duration of exercise training in altering cardiorespiratory fitness. Sports Med 3:346–356

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors gratefully acknowledge the administration of the Stade Régional Couvert de Liévin where the field tests were performed; Dr Bacquaert and the Institut Régional de Biologie et de Médecine du Sport, Région Nord-Pas de Calais, for medical assistance.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Serge Berthoin.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Dupont, G., Blondel, N. & Berthoin, S. Performance for short intermittent runs: active recovery vs. passive recovery. Eur J Appl Physiol 89, 548–554 (2003).

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: