High-intensity interval training in patients with cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Matthew Wallen, Anna Wong Shee, Luke Evans, Stephen Brown, Jonathan C. Rawstorn, Jack Harvey, Fergal Grace

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


Aim: Higher cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) is associated with reduced cancer-related mortality, recurrence and improved treatment outcomes. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) could offer a more efficient method to improve CRF than traditional moderate intensity continuous training (MICT). Our systematic review and meta- analysis compared the impact of HIIT versus usual care (UC) and/or MICT on CRF in cancer patients and survivors.

Methods: We systematically reviewed trials of HIIT versus UC and/or MICT in cancer patients and survivors. PubMed, Medline and Web of Science databases were searched (inception–11/2017) for all studies comparing HIIT to UC and/or MICT in cancer patients and survivors. Inclusion criteria were: participants aged ≥18 years; pre- and postintervention evaluation of peak oxygen uptake (VO2 peak); intervention duration ≥3 weeks; HIIT was predominantly aerobic-based exercise, interspersed by active or passive recovery periods; UC and/or MICT groups.

Results: Six randomised controlled trials (n = 346) and one quasi-experimental trial (n = 35) were analysed. Three studies examined HIIT in the preoperative period for patients with colorectal-liver metastases, lung and rectal cancers. Four studies implemented HIIT after treatment, involving patients diagnosed with colorectal, breast, testicular, ovarian or vaginal cancer, non-invasive urothelial carcinoma or non- Hodgkin's lymphoma. HIIT protocols varied widely (i.e. interval/rest duration, exercise intensity). HIIT significantly increased VO2 peak by 4.28 mL·kg-1·min-1 compared to UC. Improvements were comparable for patients undertaking HIIT before (3.98 mL·kg-1·min-1) and after treatment (3.72 mL·kg-1·min-1). Compared to MICT, HIIT significantly improved VO2 peak by 3.80 mL·kg-1·min-1. No serious adverse events were reported.

Conclusion: HIIT appears safe and significantly improves VO2 peak in cancer patients and survivors when compared to UC and MICT. Similar improvements in VO2peak were demonstrated in patients undertaking HIIT before or after treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere17909
Pages (from-to)8
Number of pages1
Issue number49
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


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