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School-based high-intensity interval training programs in children and adolescents: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Duncombe, Stephanie L.; Barker, Alan R.; Bond, Bert; Earle, Renae; Varley-Campbell, Jo; Vlachopoulos, Dimitris; Walker, Jacqueline L.; Weston, Kathryn L.; Stylianou, Michalis


Stephanie L. Duncombe

Alan R. Barker

Bert Bond

Renae Earle

Jo Varley-Campbell

Dimitris Vlachopoulos

Jacqueline L. Walker

Kathryn L. Weston

Michalis Stylianou


1) To investigate the effectiveness of school-based high-intensity interval training (HIIT) interventions in promoting health outcomes of children and adolescents compared with either a control group or other exercise modality; and 2) to explore the intervention characteristics and process outcomes of published school-based HIIT interventions.

We searched Medline, Embase, CINAHL, SPORTDiscus, and Web of Science from inception until 31 March 2021. Studies were eligible if 1) participants aged 5–17 years old; 2) a HIIT intervention within a school setting ≥ 2 weeks duration; 3) a control or comparative exercise group; 4) health-related, cognitive, physical activity, nutrition, or program evaluation outcomes; and 5) original research published in English. We conducted meta-analyses between HIIT and control groups for all outcomes with ≥ 4 studies and meta-regressions for all outcomes with ≥ 10 studies. We narratively synthesised results between HIIT and comparative exercise groups.

Fifty-four papers met eligibility criteria, encompassing 42 unique studies (35 randomised controlled trials; 36 with a high risk of bias). Meta-analyses indicated significant improvements in waist circumference (mean difference (MD) = -2.5cm), body fat percentage (MD = -1.7%), body mass index (standardised mean difference (SMD) = -1.0), cardiorespiratory fitness (SMD = +1.0), resting heart rate (MD = -5bpm), homeostatic model assessment–insulin resistance (MD = -0.7), and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (SMD = -0.9) for HIIT compared to the control group. Our narrative synthesis indicated mixed findings between HIIT and other comparative exercise groups.

School-based HIIT is effective for improving several health outcomes. Future research should address the paucity of information on physical activity and nutrition outcomes and focus on the integration and long-term effectiveness of HIIT interventions within school settings.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 18, 2022
Online Publication Date May 4, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date May 23, 2022
Publicly Available Date May 23, 2022
Print ISSN 1932-6203
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 17
Issue 5
Article Number e0266427
Public URL


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