The feasibility and acceptability of high-intensity interval training for adults with mental illness: A pilot study

Justin J. Chapman*, Jeff S. Coombes, Wendy J. Brown, Asaduzzaman Khan, Suneel Chamoli, Nancy A. Pachana, Nicola W. Burton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
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Adults with mental illness have increased risk of cardiovascular disease. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is more efficacious than moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) for improving cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF); however, the utility of HIIT for this group is unclear. The aim of this study was to compare the feasibility and acceptability of HIIT and MICT in adults with mental illness. A secondary aim was to compare the efficacy of HIIT and MICT on mental health and fitness. 


Inactive adults with self-reported mental illness participated in aerobic exercise three times/week over 12 weeks. Participants were randomised to HIIT (3x4-min bouts at 85–95% peak heart rate [HRpeak] interspersed with 3-min recovery bouts) or MICT (1 × 30-min at 65–75% HRpeak). Feasibility was assessed using attendance and withdrawal rates. Acceptability and mental health was assessed using self-administered questionnaires. Fitness was measured using indirect calorimetry during a graded fitness test to exhaustion. 


24 participants consented and 16 participants began the intervention (HIIT, n = 8; MICT, n = 8). Completion rates (HIIT, n = 4; MICT, n = 5) and median attendances were similar (HIIT = 81%, MICT = 86%). Most participants were satisfied with their allocation (88% MICT; 100% HIIT), and found the exercise enjoyable (63% MICT; 100% HIIT). Equal numbers reported that they would like to continue the exercise (63%), and that they would feel confident doing so without supervision (75%). No significant differences were found between groups on mental health and fitness. 


This preliminary evidence suggests that HIIT was as acceptable and feasible as MICT for adults with mental illness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-48
Number of pages9
JournalMental Health and Physical Activity
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


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