Skip to main content


Log in

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

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



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.

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

Access this article

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

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Similar content being viewed by others


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

HRmax :

Maximal heart rate




Low-density lipoprotein


Mean arterial blood pressure


Metabolic Syndrome Z-Score




Moderate-intensity continuous training

mL·kg−1·min−1 :

Millilitres per kilogram body mass per minute

mmol·L−1 :

Millimoles per liter

O2 :



Onset of blood lactate accumulation


Perceived Stress Questionnaire



VO2max :

Maximal oxygen uptake




Work Ability Index


Waist circumference

W max :

Maximal power output


  • Allison MK, Baglole JH, Martin BJ, Macinnis BJ, Gurd BJ, Gibala MJ (2017) Brief intense stair climbing improves cardiorespiratory fitness. Med Sci Sports Exerc 49:298–307

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Amler N, Felder S, Mau W et al (2015) Instruments for measuring the effects of early intervention on maintaining and restoring ability to work in Germany: opinion of an interdisciplinary working group. Gesundheitswesen.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Anderson LJ, Erceg DN, Schroeder ET (2012) Utility of multifrequency bioelectrical impedance compared with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry for assessment of total and regional body composition varies between men and women. Nutr Res 32:479–485

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Antoniewicz F, Brand R (2016) Dropping out or keeping up? Early-dropouts, late-dropouts, and maintainers differ in their automatic evaluations of exercise already before a 14-week exercise course. Front Psychol 7:838

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Astorino TA, Schubert MM, Palumbo E et al (2016) Perceptual changes in response to two regimes of interval training in sedentary women. J Strength Cond Res 30:1067–1076

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bækkerud FH, Solberg F, Leinan IM, Wisløff U, Karlsen T, Rognmo Ø (2016) Comparison of three popular exercise modalities on VO2max in overweight and obese. Med Sci Sports Exerc 48:491–498

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bartlett JD, Close GL, MacLaren DP, Gregson W, Drust B, Morton JP (2011) High-intensity interval running is perceived to be more enjoyable than moderate-intensity continuous exercise: implications for exercise adherence. J Sports Sci 29:547–553

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bauman AE, Reis RS, Sallis JF et al (2012) Correlates of physical activity: why are some people physically active and others not? Lancet 380:258–271

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Blackwell J, Atherton PJ, Smith K et al (2017) The efficacy of unsupervised home-based exercise regimens in comparison to supervised laboratory-based exercise training upon cardio-respiratory health facets. Physiol Rep 5:e13390

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Boutcher SH (2011) High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss. J Obes 2011:868305

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Buckworth J, Dishman RK (2002) Exercise psychology. Human Kinetics, Champaign

    Google Scholar 

  • Ciolak EG (2013) Exercise training as a preventive tool for age-related disorders: a brief review. Clinics 68:710–717

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cohen J (1988) Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. Taylor and Francis, Hoboken

    Google Scholar 

  • Connolly LJ, Bailey SJ, Krustrup P, Fulford J, Smietanka C, Jones AM (2017) Effects of self-paced interval and continuous training on health markers in women. Eur J Appl Physiol 117:2281–2293

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dunham C, Harms CA (2012) Effects of high-intensity interval training on pulmonary function. Eur J Appl Physiol 112:3061–3068

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fliege H, Rose M, Arck P et al (2005) The Perceived Stress Questionnaire (PSQ) reconsidered: Validation and reference values from different clinical and healthy adult samples. Psychosom Med 67:78–88

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Friedewald WT, Levy RI, Fredrickson DS (1972) Estimation of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in plasma, without use of the preparative ultracentrifuge. Clin Chem 18:499–502

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Gerber M, Lindwall M, Lindegård A, Börjesson M, Jonsdottir IH (2013) Cardiorespiratory fitness protects against stress-related symptoms of burnout and depression. Patient Educ Couns 93:146–152

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gibala MJ, Little JP, Macdonald MJ, Hawley JA (2012) Physiological adaptations to low-volume high-intensity interval training in health and disease. J Physiol 590:1077–1084

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Gillen JB, Martin BJ, MacInnis MJ, Skelly LE, Tarnopolsky MA, Gibala MJ (2016) Twelve weeks of sprint interval training improves indices of cardiometabolic health similar to traditional endurance training despite a five-fold lower exercise volume and time commitment. PLoS One 11:e0154075

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hallal PC, Andersen LB, Bull FC et al (2012) Global physical activity levels: surveillance progress pitfalls, and prospects. Lancet 380:247–257

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Helgerud J, Høydal K, Wang E et al (2007) Aerobic high-intensity intervals improve VO2max more than moderate training. Med Sci Sports Exerc 39:665–671

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jakobsen MD, Sundstrup E, Brandt M, Jay K, Aagaard P, Andersen LL (2015) Physical exercise at the workplace prevents deterioration of work ability among healthcare workers: cluster randomized controlled trial. BMC Public Health 15:1174

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Johnson JL, Slentz CA, Houmard JA et al (2007) Exercise training amount and intensity effects on metabolic syndrome (from studies of a targeted risk reduction intervention through defined exercise). Am J Cardiol 100:1759–1766

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Julious SA (2005) Sample size of 12 per group rule of thumb for a pilot study. Pharmaceut Statist 4:287–291

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kelley GA, Kelley KS (2013) Dropouts and compliance in exercise interventions targeting bone mineral density in adults: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Osteoporos 2013:250423

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Keogh JW, Grigg J, Vertullo CJ (2017) Is home-based, high-intensity interval training cycling feasible and safe for patients with knee osteoarthritis? Orthop J Sports Med 5:2325967117694334

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Klasen BW, Hallner D, Schaub C, Willburger R, Hasenbring M (2004) Validation and reliability of the German version of the Chronic Pain Grade Questionnaire in primary care back pain patients. Psychosoc Med 1:Doc07

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Kong Z, Fan X, Sun S, Song L, Shi Q, Nie J (2016) Comparison of high-intensity interval training and moderate-to vigorous continuous training for cardiometabolic health and exercise enjoyment in obese young women: a randomized controlled trial. PLoS One 11:e0158589

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lee JM, Bassett DR, Thompson DL, Fitzhugh EC (2011) Validation of the Cosmed Fitmate for prediction of maximal oxygen consumption. J Strength Cond Res 25:2573–2579

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lee IM, Shiroma EJ, Lobelo F et al (2012) Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. Lancet 380:219–229

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Linke SE, Gallo LC, Norman GJ (2011) Attrition and adherence rates of sustained vs. intermittent exercise interventions. Ann Behav Med 42:197–209

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Little JP, Safdar A, Wilkin GP, Tarnopolsky MA, Gibala MJ (2010) A practical model of low-volume high-intensity interval training induces mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle: potential mechanisms. J Physiol 588:1011–1022

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Lunt H, Draper N, Marshall HC et al (2014) High intensity interval training in a real world setting: a randomized controlled feasibility study in overweight inactive adults, measuring change in maximal oxygen uptake. PLoS One 9:e83256

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Martinez N, Kilpatrick MW, Salomon K, Jung ME, Little JP (2015) Affective and enjoyment responses to high-intensity interval training in overweight-to-obese and insufficiently active adults. J Sport Exerc Psychol 37:138–149

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Metcalfe RS, Babraj JA, Fawkner SG, Vollaard NB (2012) Towards the minimal amount of exercise for improving metabolic health: beneficial effects of reduced-exertion high-intensity interval training. Eur J Appl Physiol 112:2767–2775

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moebus S, Göres L, Lösch C, Jöckel KH (2011) Impact of time since last caloric intake on blood glucose levels. Eur J Epidemiol 26:719–728

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Myers J, McAuley P, Lavie CJ, Despres JP, Arena R, Kokkinos P (2015) Physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness as major markers of cardiovascular risk: their independent and interwoven importance to health status. Prog Cardiovasc Dis 57:306–314

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nam S, Dobrosielski DA, Steward KJ (2012) Predictors of exercise intervention dropout in sedentary individuals with type 2 diabetes. J Cardiopulm Rehabil Prev 32:370–378

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nassis GP (2017) High-intensity interval training: how much pain to get a gain? Br J Sports Med 51:492–493

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • National Research Council, Institute of Medicine (2013) US health in international perspective shorter lives, poorer health. National Academies Press, Washington

    Google Scholar 

  • Nieman DC, Luo B, Dréau D et al (2014) Immune and inflammation responses to a 3-day period of intensified running versus cycling. Brain Behav Immun 39:180–185

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Obling KH, Overgaard K, Juul L, Terkildsen Maindal H (2013) The MILE study: a motivational individual and locally anchored exercise intervention among 30–49 year-olds with low levels of cardiorespiratory fitness: a randomised controlled study in primary care. BMC Public Health 13:1224

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rønnestad BR, Hansen J, Vegge G, Tønnessen E, Slettaløkken G (2015) Short intervals induce superior training adaptations compared with long intervals in cyclists—an effort-matched approach. Scand J Med Sci Sports 25:143–151

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ross R, de Lannoy L, Stotz PJ (2015) Separate effects of intensity and amount of exercise on interindividual cardiorespiratory fitness response. Mayo Clin Proc 90:1506–1514

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Salacinski AJ, Tuz K, Zemel S, Broeder CE (2014) The test–retest reliability of In-Body’s 520 and S10 systems for hydration measurements. Med Sci Sports Exerc 46:839

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shepherd SO, Wilson OJ, Taylor AS et al (2015) Low-volume high-intensity interval training in a gym setting improves cardio-metabolic and psychological health. PLoS One 10:e0139056

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sidhu D, Naugler C (2012) Fasting time and lipid levels in a community-based population: a cross-sectional study. Arch Intern Med 172:1707–1710

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Støa EM, Meling S, Nyhus LK et al (2017) High-intensity aerobic interval training improves aerobic fitness and HbA1c among persons diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Eur J Appl Physiol 117:455–467

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thomas S, Reading J, Shephard RJ (1992) Revision of the physical activity readiness questionnaire (PAR-Q). Can J Sport Sci Revue Canadienne Des Sci Du Sport 17:338–345

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Thum JS, Parsons G, Whittle T, Astorino TA (2017) High-intensity interval training elicits higher enjoyment than moderate intensity continuous exercise. PLoS One 12:e0166299

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tjonna AE, Leinan IM, Bartnes AT et al (2013) Low- and high-volume of intensive endurance training significantly improves maximal oxygen uptake after 10-weeks of training in healthy men. PLoS One 8:e65382

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tucker WJ, Sawyer BJ, Jarrett CL, Bhammar DM, Gaesser GA (2015) Physiological responses to high-intensity interval training differing in interval duration. J Strength Cond Res 29:3326–3335

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weston KS, Wisloff U, Coombes JS (2014) High-intensity interval training in patients with lifestyle-induced cardiometabolic disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med 48:1227–1234

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • World Health Organization (2017) Physical activity. Fact sheet, updated February 2017. World Health Organization Media Centre. Accessed 15 Jan 2018

Download references


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 information

Authors and Affiliations



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.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dejan Reljic.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Communicated by Keith Phillip George.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Reljic, D., Wittmann, F. & Fischer, J.E. Effects of low-volume high-intensity interval training in a community setting: a pilot study. Eur J Appl Physiol 118, 1153–1167 (2018).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: