Effects of high intensity training (HIIT) in patients with metabolic syndrome

When talking about high intensity training , it is normal to think of healthy people performing this type of training. But, what would happen if I told you that this type of training can be used in patients with metabolic syndrome as a treatment?

Despite what it may seem, HIIT training can be used, always under medical supervision and with controls, as a treatment for patients with metabolic syndrome as an aid to reduce blood pressure as indicated by M. Ramírez-Jiménez and collaborators in their study. “Ambulatory blood pressure response to a bout of HIIT in metabolic syndrome patients”.

Purpose of the study

The purpose of this study was to demonstrate that the effectiveness of high intensity exercise as a measure to lower blood pressure may depend on the type and intensity of that exercise. For this, the short-term effects (in a period of approximately 14 hours) of a high-intensity aerobic interval training session (HIIT) on blood pressure in patients with metabolic syndrome were studied.

Method used in the study

The study involved a total of 19 patients, of which eight were normotensive and eleven hypertensive according to the metabolic syndrome threshold(more than 130 mmHg for systolic blood pressure and / or more than 85 mmHg for diastolic blood pressure).

The patients were subjected during the morning, for three alternate days, to a HIIT cycling training session (> 90% of the maximum heart rate and approximately 85% of the VO2Max), a moderate-intensity isocaloric continuous training session (around at 70% of maximum heart rate and 60% of VO2Max) or a control session without exercise. After the exercise, the ambulatory blood pressure was monitored, while the subjects continued their usual daily activities using a wrist activity monitor.

Results obtained

For normotensive subjects, no differences were found when comparing ambulatory blood pressure. In hypertensive patients, the systolic blood pressure was reduced by 6.1 ± 2.2 mmHg after the HIIT session. However, diastolic blood pressure was similar in the three trials (77.2 ± 2.6 vs. 78.0 ± 2.6 and 78.9 ± 2.8 mmHg, respectively). The movement analysis revealed no differences between the trials during the 14 hours after the end of the HIIT session.

Conclusions of the study

As a starting point, we could say that this study does not have a population sample broad enough to generalize whether there are benefits or not in the performance of high intensity training in patients with metabolic syndrome .

However, we can find two studies in this regard ( High-intensity interval training and hypertension: maximizing the benefits of exercise? Performed by Emmanuel Gomes Ciolac in 2012 and Aerobic interval training versus continuous moderate exercise as a treatment for the metabolic syndrome: a pilot study published by Tjønna AE and collaborators in 2008) that yield interesting results:

  • On the one hand, the study conducted in 2008, it is concluded that the intensity of exercise was an important factor to improve aerobic capacity and reverse the risk factors of the metabolic syndrome.
  • In the 2012 study, one of the main conclusions that can be drawn is that the intensity of exercise can have an important role in the prevention and control of hypertension , as shown by the greater benefits provided by HIIT workouts at the time of reversing the key alterations present in the pathophysiology of the metabolic syndrome in hypertensive patients.

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