FEB 18, 2019 4:05 PM PST

Can High-Intensity Interval Training Benefit Schoolchildren

WRITTEN BY: Abbie Arce

Obesity in children is a complex condition associated with a number of risk factors. Obesity is generally characterized as a result of overeating in combination with low levels of physical activity. This lifestyle results in an increased body mass index (BMI).

Obesity is a worldwide health problem, and it has become more prevalent in children and adults alike over the past few decades.

The increase in rates of childhood obesity is associated with an increase in the number of chronic illnesses. These illnesses include cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes, and cancer. Additionally, increased weight in childhood is related to a low cardiorespiratory capacity in adults. This is important to know because higher cardiorespiratory capacity plays a vital role in activities related to physical fitness.

For children to maintain healthy body weight, schools must prioritize and implement physical education curricula for students. Not only does an excellent physical education program help students maintain good health today, but it also provides them with the skills needed to maintain an active lifestyle into adulthood.

Not only should schools provide healthier meal options for students, but endurance exercise like jogging is essential. Most of the research done on physical activity programs today focus mostly on aerobic activity. This is, in part, because it’s extremely easy and low in cost to implement.

To delve into the question of whether or not high-intensity interval training (HIIT) would be a useful weight management tool, researchers conducted a systematic review of related studies. The studies followed children between the ages of six and 19 years old who were classified as obese or overweight. All of the studies included in the review were conducted between 2012 and 2017. All of the studies took before and after measurements from students to assess their baseline and post-intervention fitness levels. Lastly, all of the studies use HIIT as a modality for programs lasting 6 to 24 weeks.

What researchers found was that significant changes in BMI, waist circumference and maximum oxygen uptake levels amongst other measurements of improved health were the results of HIIT programs.

This suggests that HIIT works quite well in physical education classes where a large portion of time is allotted for class management duties and explanations of routines.

It is important to note that these HIIT programs saw greater improvement than did moderate intensity programs concerning health outcomes. This is likely because of the time constraints placed on the classroom.

Some of the studies limitations include the results being drawn from programs that may have used other training modalities in tandem with HIIT. Also, it’s important to note that studies with a caloric restriction were not accepted although a holistic approach that took both diet and fitness into account would be ideal.

Regardless of the limitations, it is clear that HIIT programs can be implemented to improve body composition in adolescence. Effective programs would include 2 to 3 days weekly with 40-minute sessions each of those days.

The above video, from The Health Nerd,  goes into depth about HIIT and its benefits.


Sources: Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness

About the Author
High School
Abbie is an AFAA certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with an interest in all things health-science. She has recently graduated with her BS in Applied Sport and Exercise Science from Barry University in Miami. Next, she intends to earn an MPH with a focus in Epidemiology.
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