Research into the Health Benefits of Sprint Interval Training Should Focus on Protocols with Fewer and Shorter Sprints



Vollaard N & Metcalfe R (2017) Research into the Health Benefits of Sprint Interval Training Should Focus on Protocols with Fewer and Shorter Sprints. Sports Medicine, 47 (12), pp. 2443-2451.

Over the past decade, it has been convincingly shown that regularly performing repeated brief supramaximal cycle sprints (sprint interval training [SIT]) is associated with aerobic adaptations and health benefits similar to or greater than with moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT). SIT is often promoted as a time-efficient exercise strategy, but the most commonly studied SIT protocol (4–6 repeated 30-s Wingate sprints with 4min recovery, here referred to as ‘classic’ SIT) takes up to approximately 30min per session. Combined with high associated perceived exertion, this makes classic SIT unsuitable as an alternative/adjunct to current exercise recommendations involving MICT. However, there are no indications that the design of the classic SIT protocol has been based on considerations regarding the lowest number or shortest duration of sprints to optimise time efficiency while retaining the associated health benefits. In recent years, studies have shown that novel SIT protocols with both fewer and shorter sprints are efficacious at improving important risk factors of noncommunicable diseases in sedentary individuals, and provide health benefits that are no worse than those associated with classic SIT. These shorter/easier protocols have the potential to remove many of the common barriers to exercise in the general population. Thus, based on the evidence summarised in this current opinion paper, we propose that there is a need for a fundamental change in focus in SIT research in order to move away from further characterising the classic SIT protocol and towards establishing acceptable and effective protocols that involve minimal sprint durations and repetitions.

Sports Medicine: Volume 47, Issue 12

Publication date31/12/2017
Publication date online08/04/2017
Date accepted by journal08/04/2017

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Dr Niels Vollaard

Dr Niels Vollaard

Lecturer in Health and Exercise Science, Sport