Within-session responses to high-intensity interval training in spinal cord injury

Todd Anthony Astorino, Jacob S Thum
Disability and Rehabilitation 2018, 40 (4): 444-449

AIM: Completion of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) increases maximal oxygen uptake and health status, yet its feasibility in persons with spinal cord injury is unknown.

PURPOSE: To compare changes in cardiorespiratory and metabolic variables between two interval training regimes and moderate intensity exercise.

METHOD: Nine adults with spinal cord injury (duration = 6.8 ± 6.2 year) initially underwent determination of peak oxygen uptake. During subsequent sessions, they completed moderate intensity exercise, HIIT, or sprint interval training. Oxygen uptake, heart rate, and blood lactate concentration were measured.

RESULTS: Oxygen uptake and heart rate increased (p < 0.05) during both interval training sessions and were similar (p > 0.05) to moderate intensity exercise. Peak oxygen uptake and heart rate were higher (p < 0.05) with HIIT (90% peak oxygen uptake and 99% peak heart rate) and sprint interval training (80% peak oxygen uptake and 96% peak heart rate) versus moderate intensity exercise.

CONCLUSIONS: Despite a higher intensity and peak cardiorespiratory strain, all participants preferred interval training versus moderate exercise. Examining long-term efficacy and feasibility of interval training in this population is merited, considering that exercise intensity is recognized as the most important variable factor of exercise programming to optimize maximal oxygen uptake. Implications for Rehabilitation Spinal cord injury (SCI) reduces locomotion which impairs voluntary physical activity, typically resulting in a reduction in peak oxygen uptake and enhanced chronic disease risk. In various able-bodied populations, completion of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been consistently reported to improve cardiorespiratory fitness and other health-related outcomes, although its efficacy in persons with SCI is poorly understood. Data from this study in 9 men and women with SCI show similar changes in oxygen uptake and heart in response to HIIT compared to a prolonged bout of aerobic exercise, although peak values were higher in response to HIIT. Due to the higher peak metabolic strain induced by HIIT as well as universal preference for this modality versus aerobic exercise as reported in this study, further work testing utility of HIIT in this population is merited.

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