What’s Better for Kids? Endurance or Interval Training?

How many kids do you know who like to jog? What’s the best way for a kid to lose weight? Science looks at endurance versus interval training in regards to obese children improving their health.

Obesity rates worldwide continue to rise, mainly due to physically inactive lifestyles and inappropriate diets. Sadly, the obesity trend begins with our children and can cause chronic diseases, but convincing kids to do cardio is a tough sell. So researchers are looking in to how to best make a difference. A recent study compared two different exercise training protocals in terms of health-related parameters in obese children aged between 8 and 12 years.

The study consisted of thirty obese children that were randomly assigned to an endurance training (ET) or high intensity interval training (HIT) group. The study lasted for 12 weeks. Aerobic fitness, body composition, and metabolic parameters were assessed before and after the fitness intervention. Food intake was also assessed before and after intervention, but no dietary changes were implemented.1

The ET group performed continuous exercise for 30-60 minutes at 80% of their respective heart rate. The exercise duration was increased by 10 minutes every three weeks, until a total of 60 minutes was reached, which was used for the last three weeks of the study (weeks 10-12). The HIT group performed 3-6 sets of 60-second sprints at full-speed, followed by a 3-minute active recovery period that was 50% of the exercise velocity. The HIT sessions lasted about 70% less than the ET sessions. Training progression was applied by adding one bout of exercise every three weeks. The number of exercise sessions ranged from 3 (during the first 3 weeks) to 6 (during weeks 10–12). Each training protocol was performed twice a week on alternate days for the duration of the study, and after 6 weeks of training, a new maximal graded cardiorespiratory test was conducted for training intensity adjustments.2

The results of the study revealed that both the absolute and the relative VO2 peak significantly increased in both training groups. The total time of exercise and peak velocity during the maximal graded cardiorespiratory test also demonstrated significant improvements in both groups. The HIT group saw a 2.6% decrease in body mass, and only a 1.6% decrease was noticed in the ET group. There was a significant decrease in body mass index (BMI) in both groups, but the HIT group displayed greater results (5%) than the ET group (3%). Nonetheless, all results were very similar amongst both exercise groups.3

As demonstrated by the data from the study, both ET and HIT are effective programs to use to improve health-related paramaters among obese children. Teaching children proper nutrition and including regular exercise in their schedules is essential to their long-term health and well-being. Now knowing that HIT and ET have similar effect, adults may be armed with the ability to encourage doubtful children to try shorter, more intense bursts of exercise.

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