American Heart Association
American Heart Association
December 05, 2019
1 min read

High-intensity interval training safe, effective for older adults

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Dorthe Stensvold
Dorthe Stensvold

PHILADELPHIA — Compared with moderate-intensity continuous training and controls who received advice based on national physical fitness standards in Norway, 5 years of supervised high-intensity interval training was associated with improved rates of all-cause mortality in older adults.

However, the high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) groups combined (4.5% mortality rate) did not achieve improved all-cause mortality compared with the control group (4.7% mortality rate), according to findings presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions.

Moreover, researchers found a trend toward risk reduction for all-cause mortality after HIIT (HR = 0.63; 95% CI, 0.33-1.2) but not after MICT (P = .43) compared with controls.

“Supervised exercises combined and compared to controls showed no effect on all-cause mortality, cardiovascular events or cancer events in older adults, and we observed a lower risk of all-cause mortality after HIIT compared to MICT,” Dorthe Stensvold, PhD, associate professor and researcher at K.G. Jebsen Center for Exercise in Medicine, department of circulation and medical imaging at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said during her presentation. “We also tended to see lower all-cause mortality after HIIT compared to controls.”

Compared with the MICT group, the HIIT group had an approximately 50% risk reduction (HR = 0.51; 95% CI, 0.25-1.02) for premature all-cause mortality, according to the study.

In other findings, there were no differences between the groups in cancer and CVD events.

Researchers invited all men and women born between 1936 and 1942, living in Trondheim, Norway, to participate in their study evaluating 5 years of supervised exercise on mortality. Participants (n = 1,567; 790 women; mean age, 73 years) were randomly assigned to one of three groups to undergo 5 years of two weekly sessions of HIIT at 90% of peak heart rate, two weekly sessions of MICT at 70% of peak heart rate or to a control group receiving national recommendations of physical activity.

“Importantly, this is the first study showing that high-intensity interval training is a safe, effective and feasible exercise in older adults,” Stensvold said during the presentation. – by Scott Buzby


Stensvold D, et al. Implementation Science Around the Globe. Presented at: American Heart Association Scientific Sessions; Nov. 16-18, 2019; Philadelphia.

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.