Is high-intensity interval cycling feasible and more beneficial than continuous cycling for knee osteoarthritic patients? Results of a randomised control feasibility trial

Justin W. Keogh*, Josephine Grigg, Christopher J. Vertullo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Knee osteoarthritis (OA) patients often suffer joint pain and stiffness, which contributes to negative changes in body composition, strength, physical performance (function), physical activity and health-related quality of life. To reduce these symptoms and side effects of knee OA, moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) cycling is often recommended. While resistance training is considered the optimal form of training to improve sarcopenic outcomes, it imposes higher joint loads and requires supervision, either initially or continuously by trained exercise professionals. Therefore, this pilot study sought to gain some insight into the feasibility and potential benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) cycling as an alternative exercise option to MICT cycling for individuals with knee OA. Methods: Twenty-seven middle-aged and older adults with knee OA were randomly allocated to either MICT or HIIT, with both programs involving four unsupervised home-based cycling sessions (~25 min per session) each week for eight weeks. Feasibility was assessed by enrolment rate, withdrawal rate, exercise adherence and number of adverse effects. Efficacy was assessed by health-related quality of life (Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) and Lequesne index), physical function (Timed Up and Go (TUG), Sit to Stand (STS) and preferred gait speed) and body composition (body mass, BMI, body fat percentage and muscle mass). Results: Twenty-seven of the interested 50 potential participants (54%) enrolled in the study, with 17 of the 27 participants completing the trial (withdrawal rate of 37%); with the primary withdrawal reasons being unrelated injuries or illness or family related issues. Of the 17 participants who completed the trial, exercise adherence was very high (HIIT 94%; MICT 88%).While only three individuals (one in the MICT and two in the HIIT group) reported adverse events, a total of 28 adverse events were reported, with 24 of these attributed to one HIIT participant. Pre-post-test analyses indicated both groups significantly improved their WOMAC scores, with the HIIT group also significantly improving in the TUG and STS. The only significant between-group difference was observed in the TUG, whereby the HIIT group improved significantly more than the MICT group. No significant changes were observed in the Lequesne index, gait speed or body composition for either group. Discussion: An unsupervised home-based HIIT cycle program appears somewhat feasible for middle-aged and older adults with knee OA and may produce similar improvements in health-related quality of life but greater improvements in physical function than MICT. These results need to be confirmed in larger randomised controlled trials to better elucidate the potential for HIIT to improve outcomes for those with knee OA. Additional research needs to identify and modify the potential barriers affecting the initiation and adherence to home-based HIIT cycling exercise programs by individuals with knee OA.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere4738
Number of pages19
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2018


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