Commentary: “Why Sprint interval training is inappropriate for a largely
sedentary population” The satisfaction that moves us – Sprint interval
training as an exercise method for sedentary individuals.
Fabrício Boscolo Del_Vecchio, Paulo Gentil, Victor Silveira Coswig and David Hideyoshi Fukuda
Journal Name: Frontiers in Psychology
Article type: General Commentary Article
First received on: 20 Jun 2015
Frontiers website link: www.frontiersin.org
Psychology for Clinical Settings
Commentary: “Why Sprint interval training is inappropriate for a
largely sedentary population”
The satisfaction that moves us – Sprint interval training as an exercise
method for sedentary individuals.
Fabrício Boscolo Del Vecchio1, Paulo Gentil2, Victor Silveira Coswig1*, David Hideyoshi
1 Federal University of Pelotas, Superior School of Physical Education, Pelotas/RS, Brazil
2 University of Brasilia, College of Physical Education, Brasilia/DF, Brazil
3 Institute of Exercise Physiology & Wellness, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, United
* Correspondence: Victor Silveira Coswig, Federal University of Pelotas, Superior School of
Physical Education, Pelotas/RS, 96055-410, Brazil.
Keywords: exercise psychology, sprint interval training, exercise intensity, behavior change,
feeling states, exercise adherence
Word count: 1000
The satisfaction that moves us – Sprint interval training as an exercise method for sedentary
We read, with great interest, the manuscript by Hardcastle et al. (2014) published in this journal
that conveyed the opinion that sprint interval training (SIT) is inappropriate for sedentary individuals.
In this letter, we will try to explain why the authors may be misguided in their arguments and propose
an alternate point of view on this issue.
Minimal doses of exercise for health are somewhat limited within current recommendations
which tend to gravitate toward moderate intensity continuous exercise (MICE) presented by the
American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). However, it appears that 150min per week of MICE
is insufficient for many aspects health, including weight loss and regain (Church et al., 2009). In
addition, approximately 31% of the world’s population is sedentary (Hallal et al., 2012), and for those
who aim to improve the previously mentioned health goals, SIT, which is a specific type of high-
intensity intermittent training (HIIT; Buchheit and Laursen, 2013), may be an advantageous exercise
strategy (Del Vecchio et al., 2013).
To advocate for decreased pleasure with increasing intensity, the authors (Hardcastle et al.,
2014) employ a review article that at no point mentions HIIT or SIT but primarily focused on MICE
at or near 85% of VO2reserve (Ekkekakis et al., 2011). In a direct comparison of single MICE or HIIT
sessions, Oliveira et al. (2013) observed greater ratings of perceived exertion during HIIT, but no
difference in physical activity enjoyment between the two types of exercise. In addition to the lack of
reference to SIT or HIIT in the currently discussed Opinion Article (Hardcastle et al., 2014), the authors
employ an “invited paper” (Parfitt and Hughes, 2009) which focuses on self-selected exercise intensity
and self-regulation to support the notion that "enjoyment is also a predictor of exercise adherence and
most people do not enjoy high intensity exercise". Contrary to the suggestions, in a controlled trial,
HIIT was shown to be more enjoyable than MICE (Bartlett et al., 2011). Specifically, similar results
were found in sedentary overweight/obese adults (Martinez et al., 2015).
It is our opinion that the motivation provided by positive health improvements and the time-
efficiency of SIT/HIIT exceeds the potential aversive effects of higher intensities. Moreover, the
assumption that these protocols have low adherence is not confirmed, with studies in elderly
individuals showing a preference for interval protocols (Guiraud et al., 2011) and lengthy training
studies (up to 9 months) reporting adherence greater than 90% with HIIT in obese participants and
people with joint disorders (Gremeaux et al., 2012; Bressel et al., 2014). The only study cited in the
Opinion Article (Hardcastle et al., 2014) to question adherence to intense protocols is by Perri et al.
(2002) which involved the comparison of two MICE sessions carried out between 40-55% and 65-75%
of heart rate reserve. In fact, the results of this study highlight potential issues with current MICE
recommendations, including decreased adherence and limitations with regard to training volume using
selected intensities for steady-state exercise. Interestingly, results from a systematic review showed
that 12 months of MICE resulted in less than 2kg of weight loss (Avenell et al., 2004), while others
have recommended advocated the use of HIIT for improvements in body composition (Boutcher,
Further, SIT has shown to improve motivation, particularly with regard to appearance and
maintenance of body mass, as well as raise quality of life scores in elderly sedentary people (Knowles
et al., 2015). Contradicting the assumptions made by Hardcastle et al. (2014), results from a
randomized controlled trial showed that 6 weeks of SIT lead to improvement in the perception of health
and mood of sedentary women (30-65yrs) at risk for metabolic syndrome (Freese et al., 2014).
Studies in the Opinion Article (Hardcastle et al., 2014) used to convince the reader that SIT is
strenuous and can increase feelings of low self-esteem, potential failure and incompetence tended to
address generic issues and did not specifically involve SIT or HIIT, (Hein and Hagger, 2007; Lindwall
et al., 2011). Furthermore, self-discipline and self-regulation, presented as necessary factors to achieve
success with SIT, are essential for any behavior change. In particular, engagement in exercise for health
is a behavioral decision.
Additionally, the sense of self-esteem, motivation and competence is relative and can be
enhanced by professionals, as we believe that few people should perform exercise without supervision
or guidance. In this context, the exercise intensity is relative to the individuals current health and
emotional status. Often sedentary, obese or with medical restrictions, have such low physical fitness
that it would be impossible to conduct MICE. For example, a person with COPD, if a 30-minute
exercise is recommended, should exercise at 2.4-3.5km/h (Rugbjerg et al., 2015), which may results in
complications, including, but not limited to, joint pain, diaper rash, and general discomfort as reported
by obese individuals during this type of training.
The authors of the Opinion Article (Hardcastle et al., 2014) argue that intensity control during
SIT is complex. However, proper control of MICE requires expensive and complex equipment to
quantify intensities, such as heart rate monitors, global positioning systems and/or devices to report
external loads (speed, load, inclination…). In contrast, the interval-training model proposed by Tabata
et al. (1996) can be conducted with minimal equipment, with physiological adaptions equivalent to
those obtained with MICE (McRae et al., 2012). Regarding the use of extended rest/recovery periods
between exercise intervals, SIT models are flexible and Matsuo et al. (2014) reported superior results
using a protocol lasting only 7min compared to a 45-minute MICE session, further highlighting the
time efficient nature of this approach.
We would like to thank the authors of the Opinion Article for their efforts with regard to
potentially furthering the research agenda surrounding the beneficial effects of SIT. In closing, it is
should be recognized that the development of training programs should not be limited to a single
exercise methodology (Del Vecchio et al., 2013), and that, in addition to SIT and MICE, other modes,
including progressive strength training and leisure/recreational activities, should also be utilized in the
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