Acute cardiovascular responses to interval exercise: A systematic review and meta-analysis Academic Article uri icon


  • Interval exercise training is increasingly recommended to improve health and fitness; however, it is not known if cardiovascular risk is different from continuous exercise protocols. This systematic review with meta-analyses assessed the effect of a single bout of interval exercise on cardiovascular responses that indicate risk of cardiac fibrillation and infarction compared to continuous exercise. Electronic databases Medline, CINAHL, Embase, Scopus and Cochrane were searched. Key inclusion criteria were: (1) intervals of the same intensity and duration followed by a recovery period and (2) reporting at least one of blood pressure, heart rate variability, arterial stiffness or function. Cochrane Risk of Bias tool and GRADE approach were used. Meta-analyses found that systolic blood pressure responses to interval exercise did not differ from responses to continuous exercise immediately (MD 8 mmHg [95% CI -32, 47], p = 0.71) or at 60 min following exercise (MD 0 mmHg [95% CI -2, 1], p = 0.79). However, reductions in diastolic blood pressure and flow-mediated dilation with interval exercise were observed 10-15 min post-exercise. The available evidence indicates that interval exercise does not convey higher cardiovascular risk than continuous exercise. Further investigation is required to establish the safety of interval exercise for clinical populations.

publication date

  • 2020