HIIT = Smarts?

Many experts suggest that high-intensity interval training is an effective protocol for improving body composition. New research suggests HIIT can also positively impact brain function.

"The purpose of our study was to assess the effects of a training intervention combining high-intensity interval training on anthropometric data, exercise toler­ance, cognitive performance and cerebral oxygenation during exercise in over­weight adults," the authors reported.

The researchers recruited six adults, who completed a 4-month training program consisting of two HIIT sessions on an ergocycle and two resistance training sessions I per week. By the end of the study, all the usual markers of changesuch as improve­ments in maximal power, VO2max and maximal heart rate - were present. Weight, body mass index, waist circumference and fat mass had decreased across the board. But the scientists also noticed improvements in executive function and memory.

"In addition to improvements in exercise tolerance, a program combining HUT and resistance training could improve executive functions in overweight adults," noted the authors. "These results were associated with changes in cerebral oxy­genation measured using Near-Infrared Spectroscopy, suggesting that variations in deoxyhemoglobin are much more related to exercise tolerance than oxyhemoglobin."

The data was presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto and published in the Annals of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (2012; 55 [S1], e314-15).
Readers should consider that this was a very small study.