HIIT in people with heart disease: benefits and recommendations

Physical activity has many benefits for patients with heart conditions. However, more and more studies support the practice of HIIT or high intensity routines.

Last update: 26 January, 2022

High-intensity interval training, better known as HIIT, is a type of routine that is increasingly being used by athletes and coaches. It is characterized by alternating short periods of intense exercise with rest. or less vigorous activities. Several studies have shown that HIIT training in people with heart disease has better benefits than other routines.

Heart-related pathologies affect millions of patients around the world and are one of the main causes of death. For this reason, working on the physical condition of those who suffer from them is essential. However, to put these trainings into practice, you must follow the instructions of the professionals and have a personalized follow-up.

Benefits of physical exercise for the prevention and treatment of heart disease

Physical activity has multiple health benefitsboth physically and mentally. According to the World Health Organization, it contributes to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, improves reasoning skills and reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety.

For this reason, it is recommended that people with heart disease stay active. Physical activities are a common method in the treatment of heart diseases. In general, moderate intensity continuous routines were always more associated with good results in cardiac rehabilitation.

However, recent research, such as that conducted by the University of Queensland, shows the effectiveness of HIIT in people with heart disease. Especially, on patients with conditions in the coronary arteries.

Dr. Jenna Taylor, one of those responsible for the investigation, suggests that high-intensity training is efficient in improving cardiorespiratory fitnessthe main cause of mortality.

HIIT training in people with heart disease: what do the studies suggest?

The WHO indicates that heart problems are one of the main causes of death worldwide. In 2019, ischemic heart disease ranked first.

With these motivations, some studies focused on the comparison of exercises of various intensity in patients undergoing cardiac rehabilitation treatments. For example, the one carried out by specialists from different universities in the United Kingdom, who observed the effects of moderate-intensity routines in some patients. While another group performed HIIT exercises.

The researchers aimed to monitor and assess the safety of this type of training for heart patients. In addition, they set out to compare the effectiveness of routines with varying intensity. Participants were monitored for 8 weeks.

One group respected the HIIT program and the other the moderate intensity program. Focused on strength and endurance workhaving to complete at least 80% of the indicated sessions.

The HIIT group had to reach a training goal of 10×1 minute in the fourth week. While the moderate intensity group had to reach 20 minutes of continuous exercise also by the end of the month.

HIIT routines are intense and pose exercises of short duration that are alternated with short breaks.

Who participated in the study?

It should be noted that to enter the program certain requirements had to be met, such as successful revascularization after coronary intervention. In addition, belonging to an age range of 18 to 75 years and be clinically stable patients for more than 2 weeks.

On the other hand, people with the following difficulties were excluded:

  • Ischemia symptoms.
  • Left coronary artery stenosis.
  • Compromised ventricular arrhythmia.
  • Valvular heart disease.
  • Inability to meet exercise and training participation guidelines.
  • Exercise-induced ischemia.
  • Left ventricular ejection fraction less than 40%.


Among the most significant results I know observed remarkable changes in the maximum peak of oxygen consumption. Also, improvements in quality of life based on a more active daily routine.

Benefits on cardiac reserve and general cardiovascular health were found. The report indicates that these results were more noticeable in patients who complied with the high-intensity routine, reducing all causes of death by 15%.

In conclusion, HIIT in people with heart disease has been shown to result in greater improvements than moderate-intensity workouts. Especially in aspects such as the maximum peak of oxygen consumption. Of course, this type of training must be prescribed, designed and monitored by specialists, within a cardiovascular rehabilitation process.

Other research that supports it

Another study, published in the specialized journal Heart, Lung and Circulation, set out to determine which type of training has better results in patients with coronary artery disease. For that they monitored 472 people, of which 218 performed HIIT routines and 254 of moderate intensity.

The researchers observed that the first group had a more pronounced increase in peak cardiorespiratory fitness. Something that coincides with the results of the previous study. However, patients with moderate-intensity activities were associated with a more pronounced decrease in resting heart rate and body weight.

Finally, in the work carried out by the University of Queensland, improvements were observed in all the patients who practiced physical activity. On an annual tour, those who carried out HIIT routines had greater benefits.

Cardiovascular rehabilitation is always guided by professionals. After a heart attack, for example, exercises must be scheduled and strictly monitored.

HIIT training tips for people with heart disease

The implementation of this type of routines in rehabilitation patients should be recommended and monitored by medical professionals. Various studies, such as the one published Journal of the American Heart AssociationThey concluded that there is a low safety risk in HIIT training during cardiac rehabilitation.

In this study, the evolution of 1117 patients was analyzed and, although a low risk was determined, it is advisable to specify the routines gradually. This includes pre-warming and constant hydration, both in cardiac patients and in anyone.

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