Role of the exercise of high intensity intervals (HIIT) in health in the older adults: A systematic review of randomized clinical trials

  • José Daniel Jiménez García Universidad de Cádiz (España)
  • Agustín Aibar Almazán Universidad de Jaén (España)
  • Fidel Hita Contreras Universidad de Jaén (España)
  • David Cruz Días Universidad de Jaén (España)
  • Raquel Fábrega Cuadros Universidad de Jaén (España)
  • Antonio Martínez Amat Universidad de Jaén (España)


Despite growing interest in high-intensity interval training as a time-effective way for older adults to improve their health, there is little consensus regarding the better way to plan a HIIT intervention. Given the loss of function and health problems of an older adult population, the identification and characterization of interventions and strategies is a fundamental prerequisite. The goals of this review are examining high-intensity interval training as a way to improve health, and finding out the highestintensity viable HIIT protocol. Studies were included in this systematic review if: (1) they studied a population of older adults; (2) prescribed an intervention that can be described as high intensity; and (3) reported health-related outcome measures. The resulting 14 papers were included in our study. The present review found that high-intensity interval training is an effective tool to improve indicators of body composition as well as cardiometabolic and cardiovascular health, with 90-95% HRmax cycle ergometer sessions held two-three times a week, with a minimum session length of 40 minutes, in an intervention at least 12-week long, effecting significant improvements on the health of participants. Recommendations regarding optimal exercise duration and rest intervals must remain ambiguous given the scarcity of published literature and the methodology and limitations of those studies that are already available


Bell, K.E., Séguin, C., Parise, G., Baker, S.K., and Phillips, S.M. (2015). Day-to-day changes in
muscle protein synthesis in recovery from resistance, aerobic, and high-intensity interval
exercise in older men. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, 70(8), 1024-1029.

Bruseghini, P., Calabria, E., Tam, E., Milanese, C., Oliboni, E., Pezzato, A., ... Capelli, C. (2015).
Effects of eight weeks of aerobic interval training and of isoinertial resistance training on
risk factors of cardiometabolic diseases and exercise capacity in healthy elderly subjects.
Oncotarget, 6(19), 16998.

Carmeli, E., Coleman, R., and Reznick, A.Z. (2002). The biochemistry of aging muscle.
Experimental Gerontology, 37(4), 477-489.

Ceglia, L. (2009). Vitamin D and its role in skeletal muscle. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition
and Metabolic Care, 12(6), 628.

Clark, B.C., and Manini, T.M. (2008). Sarcopenia≠ dynapenia. The Journals of Gerontology Series
A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 63(8), 829-834.

Cruz-Jentoft, A.J., Baeyens, J.P., Bauer, J.M., Boirie, Y., Cederholm, T., Landi, F., … Topinková,
E. (2010). Sarcopenia: European consensus on definition and diagnosisReport of the
European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People A. J. Cruz-Gentoft et al. Age
and Ageing, 39(4), 412-423.

Devin, J.L., Sax, A.T., Hughes, G.I., Jenkins, D.G., Aitken, J.F., Chambers, S.K., ... Skinner, T.L.
(2016). The influence of high-intensity compared with moderate-intensity exercise
training on cardiorespiratory fitness and body composition in colorectal cancer
survivors: a randomised controlled trial. Journal of Cancer Survivorship, 10(3),
467-479. ISO 690

Ellingsen, Ø., Halle, M., Conraads, V., Støylen, A., Dalen, H., Delagardelle, C.,... and Videm, V.
(2017). High-intensity interval training in patients with heart failure with reduced
ejection fraction. Circulation, 135(9), 839-849.

García-Pinillos, F., Laredo-Aguilera, J.A., Muñoz-Jiménez, M., and Latorre-Román, P.A. (2019).
Effects of 12-Week Concurrent High-Intensity Interval Strength and Endurance Training
Program on Physical Performance in Healthy Older People. The Journal of Strength and
Conditioning Research, 33(5), 1445-1452.

Globas, C., Becker, C., Cerny, J., Lam, J.M., Lindemann, U., Forrester, L.W., ... Luft, A.R. (2012).
Chronic stroke survivors benefit from high-intensity aerobic treadmill exercise: a
randomized control trial. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, 26(1), 85-95.

Granacher, U., Muehlbaue, T., Zahner, L., Gollhofer, A., and Kressig, R.W. (2011). Comparison
of traditional and recent approaches in the promotion of balance and strength in older
adults. Sports Medicine, 41(5), 377-400.

Henderson, G.C., Irving, B.A., and Nair, K.S. (2009). Potential application of essential amino
Acid supplementation to treat sarcopenia in elderly people. ISO 690

Howley, E.T., and Franks, B.D. (1986). Health/Fitness Instructor's Handbook. Human Kinetics
Publishers, Inc., Marketing Director, Box 5076, Champaign, IL.

Jabbour, G., Iancu, H.D., Mauriege, P., Joanisse, D.R., and Martin, L.J. (2017). High‐intensity
interval training improves performance in young and older individuals by increasing
mechanical efficiency. Physiological Reports, 5(7), 1-45.

Kessler, H.S., Sisson, S.B., and Short, K.R. (2012). The potential for high-intensity interval
training to reduce cardiometabolic disease risk. Sports Medicine, 42(6), 489-509.

Knowles, A.M., Herbert, P., Easton, C., Sculthorpe, N., and Grace, F.M. (2015). Impact of lowvolume, high-intensity interval training on maximal aerobic capacity, health-related
quality of life and motivation to exercise in ageing men. Age, 37(2), 25.

Latham, N.K., Anderson, C.S., Lee, A., Bennett, D.A., Moseley, A., and Cameron, I.D. (2003). A
randomized, controlled trial of quadriceps resistance exercise and vitamin D in frail
older people: the Frailty Interventions Trial in Elderly Subjects (FITNESS). Journal of
the American Geriatrics Society, 51(3), 291-299. ISO 690

Lazaar, N., Aucouturier, J., Ratel, S., Rance, M., Meyer, M., and Duché, P. (2007). Effect of
physical activity intervention on body composition in young children: influence of body
mass index status and gender. Acta Paediatrica, 96(9), 1321-1325. ISO 690

Liberati, A., Altman, D. G., Tetzlaff, J., Mulrow, C., Gøtzsche, P. C., Ioannidis, J. P.,... Moher, D.
(2009). The PRISMA statement for reporting systematic reviews and meta-analyses of
studies that evaluate health care interventions: explanation and elaboration. PLoS
Medicine, 6(7), e1000100. ISO 690

Littbrand, H., Lundin‐Olsson, L., Gustafson, Y., and Rosendahl, E. (2009). The effect of a high‐
intensity functional exercise program on activities of daily living: a randomized
controlled trial in residential care facilities. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society,
57(10), 1741-1749.

Maillard, F., Rousset, S., Pereira, B., Traore, A., Del Amaze, P.D.P., Boirie, Y.,... Boisseau, N.
(2016). High-intensity interval training reduces abdominal fat mass in postmenopausal
women with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes and Metabolism, 42(6), 433-441.

Mandrup, C.M., Egelund, J., Nyberg, M., Slingsby, M.H.L., Andersen, C.B., Løgstrup, S., ...
Hellsten, Y. (2017). Effects of high-intensity training on cardiovascular risk factors in
premenopausal and postmenopausal women. American Journal of Obstetrics and
Gynecology, 216(4), 384-e1.

Martínez-Vizcaíno, V., Sánchez-López, M., Notario-Pacheco, B., Salcedo-Aguilar, F., SoleraMartínez, M., Franquelo-Morales, P., ... Mora-Rodríguez, R. (2014). Gender differences
on effectiveness of a school-based physical activity intervention for reducing
cardiometabolic risk: a cluster randomized trial. International Journal of Behavioral
Nutrition and Physical Activity, 11(1), 154.

Mejías-Peña, Y., Rodriguez-Miguelez, P., Fernandez-Gonzalo, R., Martínez-Flórez, S., Almar, M.,
de Paz, J.A.,... González-Gallego, J. (2016). Effects of aerobic training on markers of
autophagy in the elderly. Age, 38(2), 33.

Muehlbauer, T., Besemer, C., Wehrle, A., Gollhofer, A., and Granacher, U. (2012). Relationship
between strength, power and balance performance in seniors. Gerontology, 58(6), 504-

Nemoto, K.I., Gen-no, H., Masuki, S., Okazaki, K., and Nose, H. (2007). Effects of high-intensity
interval walking training on physical fitness and blood pressure in middle-aged and older
people. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 82(7), 803-811.

Obert, P., Mandigouts, S., Nottin, S., Vinet, A., N’Guyen, L.D., and Lecoq, A.M. (2003).
Cardiovascular responses to endurance training in children: effect of gender. European
Journal of Clinical Investigation, 33(3), 199-208.

Onambélé-Pearson, G.L., Breen, L., and Stewart, C.E. (2010). Influence of exercise intensity in
older persons with unchanged habitual nutritional intake: skeletal muscle and endocrine
adaptations. Age, 32(2), 139-153.

Orr, R., De Vos, N.J., Singh, N.A., Ross, D.A., Stavrinos, T.M., and Fiatarone-Singh, M.A.
(2006). Power training improves balance in healthy older adults. The Journals of
Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 61(1), 78-85.

Ramos, J.S., Dalleck, L.C., Borrani, F., Mallard, A.R., Clark, B., Keating, S.E., ... Coombes, J. S.
(2016). The effect of different volumes of high-intensity interval training on proinsulin
in participants with the metabolic syndrome: a randomised trial. Diabetologia, 59(11),

Ridgers, N.D., Timperio, A., Cerin, E., and Salmon, J.O. (2014). Compensation of physical
activity and sedentary time in primary school children. Medicine and Science in Sports
and Exercise, 46(8), 1564.

Rognmo, Ø., Moholdt, T., Bakken, H., Hole, T., Mølstad, P., Myhr, N.E.,... and Wisløff, U.
(2012). Cardiovascular risk of high-versus moderate-intensity aerobic exercise in
coronary heart disease patients. Circulation, 126(12), 1436-1440.

Rowland, T.W. (1998). The biological basis of physical activity. Medicine and Science in Sports
and Exercise, 30(3), 392-399.

Rubenstein, L.Z. (2006). Falls in older people: epidemiology, risk factors and strategies for
prevention. Age and Ageing, 35(2), ii37-ii41.

Rubenstein, L.Z., and Josephson, K.R. (2002). The epidemiology of falls and syncope. Clinics in
Geriatric Medicine, 18(2), 141-158.

Stutts, W.C. (2002). Physical activity determinants in adults: perceived benefits, barriers, and self
efficacy. Aaohn Journal, 50(11), 499-507.

Tinetti, M.E., and Kumar, C. (2010). The patient who falls: “It's always a trade-off”. Jama, 303(3),

Woollacott, M.H., and Shumway-Cook, A. (1990). Changes in posture control across the life spana systems approach. Physical Therapy, 70(12), 799-807.
World Health Organization (WHO). (2007). Global age-friendly cities: A guide. Sweden: WHO.
Cómo citar
JIMÉNEZ GARCÍA, José Daniel et al. Role of the exercise of high intensity intervals (HIIT) in health in the older adults: A systematic review of randomized clinical trials. European Journal of Health Research, [S.l.], v. 6, n. 1, p. 51-64, mayo 2020. ISSN 2445-0308. Disponible en: <>. Fecha de acceso: 06 jul. 2020 doi: