Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Six weeks of high-intensity interval training enhances contractile activity induced vascular reactivity and skeletal muscle perfusion in older adults

Herrod, Philip JJ; Atherton, Philip J; Smith, Kenneth; Williams, John P; Lund, Jonathan N; Phillips, Bethan E

Six weeks of high-intensity interval training enhances contractile activity induced vascular reactivity and skeletal muscle perfusion in older adults Thumbnail


Philip JJ Herrod

Professor of Clinical, metabolic & Molecular Physiology

Professor of Metabolic Mass Spectrometry

Clinical Associate Professor

Clinical Associate Professor

Professor of Translational Physiology


Impairments in muscle microvascular function are associated with the pathogenesis of sarcopenia and cardiovascular disease. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is an intervention by which a myriad of beneficial skeletal muscle/cardiovascular adaptations have been reported across age, including capillarisation and improved endothelial function. Herein, we hypothesised that HIIT would enhance muscle microvascular blood flow and vascular reactivity to acute contractile activity in older adults, reflecting HIIT-induced vascular remodelling. In a randomised controlled-trial, twenty-five healthy older adults aged 65–85years (mean BMI 27.0) were randomised to 6-week HIIT or a no-intervention control period of an equal duration. Measures of microvascular responses to a single bout of muscle contractions (i.e. knee extensions) were made in the m. vastus lateralis using contrast-enhanced ultrasound during a continuous intravenous infusion of Sonovue™ contrast agent, before and after the intervention period, with concomitant assessments of cardiorespiratory fitness and resting blood pressure. HIIT led to improvements in anaerobic threshold (13.2 ± 3.4 vs. 15.3 ± 3.8ml/kg/min, P < 0.001), dynamic exercise capacity (145 ± 60 vs. 159 ± 59W, P < 0.001) and resting (systolic) blood pressure (142 ± 15 vs. 133 ± 11mmHg, P < 0.01). Notably, HIIT elicited significant increases in microvascular blood flow responses to acute contractile activity (1.8 ± 0.63 vs. 2.3 ± 0.8 (arbitrary contrast units (AU), P < 0.01)), with no change in any of these parameters observed in the control group. Six weeks HIIT improves skeletal muscle microvascular responsiveness to acute contractile activity in the form of active hyperaemia-induced by a single bout of resistance exercise. These findings likely reflect reports of enhanced large vessel distensibility, improved endothelial function, and muscle capillarisation following HIIT. Moreover, our findings illustrate that HIIT may be effective in mitigating deleterious alterations in muscle microvascular mediated aspects of sarcopenia.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 18, 2021
Online Publication Date Sep 25, 2021
Publication Date Dec 1, 2021
Deposit Date Sep 24, 2021
Publicly Available Date Sep 26, 2022
Journal GeroScience
Print ISSN 2509-2715
Electronic ISSN 2509-2723
Publisher Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 43
Issue 6
Pages 2667-2678
Keywords Geriatrics and Gerontology; Aging
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Received: 6 July 2021; Accepted: 18 September 2021; First Online: 25 September 2021 : The authors declare no competing interests.


You might also like

Downloadable Citations