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Aerobic high intensity interval training (HIIT) is safe in the general population and more efficient in improving fitness than continuous moderate intensity training. The body of literature examining HIIT in multiple sclerosis (MS) is expanding but to date a systematic review has not been conducted. The aim of this review was to investigate the efficacy and safety of HIIT in people with MS.
A systematic search was carried out in September 2017 in EMBASE, MEDline, PEDro, CENTRAL and Web of Science Core collections using appropriate keywords and MeSH descriptors. Reference lists of relevant articles were also searched. Articles were eligible for inclusion if they were published in English, used HIIT, and included participants with MS. Quality was assessed using the PEDro scale. The following data were extracted using a standardised form: study design and characteristics, outcome measures, significant results, drop-outs, and adverse events.
Seven studies (described by 11 articles) were identified: four randomised controlled trials, one randomised cross-over trial and two cohort studies. PEDro scores ranged from 3 to 8. Included participants (n = 249) were predominantly mildly disabled; one study included only people with progressive MS. Six studies used cycle ergometry and one used arm ergometry to deliver HIIT. One study reported six adverse events, four which could be attributed to the intervention. The other six reported that there were no adverse events. Six studies reported improvements in at least one outcome measure, however there were 60 different outcome measures in the seven studies. The most commonly measured domain was fitness, which improved in five of the six studies measuring aspects of fitness. The only trial not to report positive results included people with progressive and a more severe level of disability (Extended Disability Status Scale 6.0-8.0).
HIIT appears to be safe and effective in increasing fitness in people with MS and low levels of disability. Further research is required to explore the effectiveness of HIIT in people with progressive MS and in those with higher levels of disability.
Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2018 Jun 13;24:55-63. doi: 10.1016/j.msard.2018.06.005. [Epub ahead of print]
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