Sports Medicine

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 269–279 | Cite as

Sprint Interval Training Effects on Aerobic Capacity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

  • Nicholas H. GistEmail author
  • Michael V. Fedewa
  • Rod K. Dishman
  • Kirk J. Cureton
Systematic Review



Sprint interval training (SIT) involving repeated 30-s “all out” efforts have resulted in significantly improved skeletal muscle oxidative capacity, maximal oxygen uptake, and endurance performance. The positive impact of SIT on cardiorespiratory fitness has far-reaching health implications.


The objective of this study was to perform a systematic review of the literature and meta-analysis to determine the effects of SIT on aerobic capacity.


A search of the literature was conducted using the key words ‘sprint interval training’, ‘high intensity intermittent training/exercise’, ‘aerobic capacity’, and ‘maximal oxygen uptake’. Seventeen effects were analyzed from 16 randomized controlled trials of 318 participants. The mean ± standard deviation number of participants was 18.7 ± 5.1. Participant age was 23.5 ± 4.3 years.


The effect size calculated for all studies indicates that supramaximal-intensity SIT has a small-to-moderate effect (Cohen’s d = 0.32, 95 % CI 0.10–0.55; z = 2.79, P < 0.01) on aerobic capacity with an aggregate improvement of ~3.6 mL·kg−1·min−1 (~8 % increase). The effect is moderate to large in comparison with no-exercise control groups (Cohen’s d = 0.69, 95 % CI 0.46–0.93; z = 5.84, P < 0.01) and not different when compared with endurance training control groups (Cohen’s d = 0.04, 95 % CI −0.17 to 0.24; z = 0.36, P = 0.72).


SIT improves aerobic capacity in healthy, young people. Relative to continuous endurance training of moderate intensity, SIT presents an equally effective alternative with a reduced volume of activity. This evaluation of effects and analysis of moderating variables consolidates the findings of small-sample studies and contributes to the practical application of SIT to improve cardiorespiratory fitness and health.


Endurance Training Aerobic Capacity Training Intervention Cardiorespiratory Fitness Maximal Oxygen Uptake 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors thank Dr. Timothy W. Puetz for his assistance with graphical representation of results.

No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this review.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas H. Gist
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Michael V. Fedewa
    • 1
  • Rod K. Dishman
    • 1
  • Kirk J. Cureton
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of KinesiologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Department of Physical EducationArvin Cadet Physical Development Center, United States Military AcademyWest PointUSA

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