High-intensity interval training (HIIT)—short bursts of strenuous exercise—is a popular fitness trend. Now, a new study shows that aquatic HIIT can improve the exercise capacity of people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes.
The study, published in the journal BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, showed that aquatic HIIT (AHIIT) could be a safe alternative for people with chronic conditions who are unable to perform land-based HIIT, according to the paper. HIIT is considered to have more health benefits than moderate-intensity exercise for people with and without chronic conditions.
Furthermore, HIIT is a popular exercise option because it increases aerobic capacity and endurance while being time efficient. On the other hand, exercising in water can help relieve pressure on joints, making it possible for people to do movements that they can’t necessarily do on land, Medical News Today explains.
For the study, the researchers examined AHIIT improved participants’ exercise capability by measuring oxygen consumption, walking tests and other physical fitness tests and compared it with land-based HIIT. The participants had a range of chronic conditions including back pain, arthritis, chronic lung disease (COPD), type 2 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.
The findings showed that AHIIT moderately improved participants’ exercise capacity compared with no exercise and no difference was observed in exercise capacity between AHIIT and land-based HIIT. “A key finding of this meta-analysis indicates that AHIIT may be as beneficial as LBHIIT, which gives people with chronic conditions another choice for effective HIIT or potentially a more successful environment to start and continue with high-intensity training,” the researchers wrote in the paper.
When people with pain are required to keep weight off a joint after an injury or condition, aquatic exercise programmes can be used to sustain or increase aerobic conditioning, the researchers added. In the paper, they emphasised that AHIIT should be considered both a beneficial environment to increase exercise capacity, and a valuable alternative to land-based HIIT for people with a range of chronic conditions, especially if they face problems with achieving higher levels of function or exercise intensity on land.