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Study Finds High-Intensity Interval Cycling Offers Similar Benefits to Weight-Bearing HIIT with Less Joint Stress

Source: Les Mills

Low-impact high-intensity interval training improves cardiovascular, metabolic and musculoskeletal fitness  

BALTIMORE – MAY 17, 2016 – New research published in the Journal of Fitness Research shows that high-intensity interval cycling may be an effective, low-impact alternative to traditional high-intensity interval training (HIIT), with comparable benefits. The study also showed that high-intensity interval cycling significantly improves cardiovascular, metabolic, and musculoskeletal fitness. The full study titled, "High Intensity Interval Cycling Improves Physical Fitness In Trained Adults," is now available for download here.

“Prior research has shown high-intensity exercise lowers cardiovascular disease; however, because this type of exercise often involves weight-bearing impact, it has not been a viable option for a significant population of people who suffer foot, knee and lower back pain, ” said Jinger Gottschall, Associate Professor and lead researcher of the study conducted at Penn State. “The findings suggest that low-impact interval cycling can achieve similar results to weight-bearing HIIT. There is less impact with LES MILLS SPRINT™ than weight-bearing HIIT programs, therefore it may be more suitable for those with orthopedic restrictions,” she said.

In this study of high-intensity interval cycling, the researchers measured blood pressure, peak oxygen consumption, fasting blood profile, body composition and leg strength at the start of the study and again at six weeks. High-intensity interval training, commonly called HIIT, is vigorous exercise characterized by periods of exertion over 85 percent maximum heart rate followed by periods of recovery or rest.

The researchers found that high-intensity interval cycling significantly improves cardiovascular, metabolic and musculoskeletal fitness.

Musculoskeletal Improvements

  • Physical fitness improved across nearly all variables
  • Leg strength increased by nearly 12 percent for the cycling group, but showed no change for the control group. This is the first time leg strength has shown an increase in a cycling study of this type
  • Body fat percentage decreased by 1.1 percent

Cardiovascular and Metabolic Improvements:

  • Peak oxygen consumption increased by nearly 10 percent in the cycling group but did not change significantly with the control group 
  • Blood glucose decreased by 7 percent
  • Blood pressure was reduced by nearly 10 percent
  • Total cholesterol was lowered by 6 percent and triglycerides were lowered by 16 percent. HDL cholesterol was not affected

“These findings validate that incorporating intense exercise, and not the duration of the exercise, can make a significant difference in overall health and fitness in a relatively short amount of time,” said Bryce Hastings, Group Fitness Research Officer, Les Mills International. “In just six weeks, study participants experienced striking improvements from our low-impact LES MILLS SPRINT cycling program. This makes improved fitness achievable for a larger population that may otherwise be restricted from high intensity workouts due to orthopedic limitations.”

In the study, 36 adults who were on average 41 years old and involved in regular cardiovascular activity more than three times per week for at least 60 minutes per session were randomly assigned to one of two groups.  In one group, the participants replaced a single 60-minute cardiovascular training session with two, 30-minute high intensity LES MILLS SPRINT indoor cycling sessions on two non-consecutive days for six weeks.  The second group served as controls and maintained their current physical fitness routine for the same six-week period. 

As part of Les Mills’ mission to create a fitter planet, Les Mills International funded this research study to continue developing its science-proven structure of its program offerings. Participants completed LES MILLS SPRINT classes at FITOLOGY, a fitness studio located in State College, Pennsylvania.

About Les Mills
Les Mills International is the creator of 13 global group fitness and team training programs, including BODYPUMP® (weights), BODYCOMBAT® (martial arts), RPM® (indoor cycling), LES MILLS GRIT® (30-minute high intensity interval training) and LES MILLS SPRINT™ (high-intensity cycling). Every week, millions of people get fit in more than 16,000 clubs across 80 countries with the help of 100,000 passionate Les Mills instructors. The company’s SMART TECH™ equipment line combines innovative ergonomic design with quality construction to help people get better results from their workouts in less time, while Les Mills Good Protein, a simple and functional protein powder, helps people fuel their bodies right. For more information, visit Les Mills at www.LesMills.com. 

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