The effect of low volume sprint interval training in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Catriona MacLean, John Dillon, John A Babraj, Niels B.J. Vollaard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (SciVal)


Objectives: Exercise is an important part of disease management in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), but adherence to current exercise recommendations is poor. Novel low-volume sprint interval training (SIT) protocols with total training time commitments of ≤30 min per week have been shown to improve cardiometabolic risk and functional capacity in healthy sedentary participants, but the efficacy of such protocols in the management of NAFLD remains unknown. The aim of the present study was to examine whether a low-volume SIT protocol can be used to improve liver function, insulin resistance, body composition, physical fitness, cognitive function and general well-being in patients with NAFLD. 

Methods: In the present study, 7 men and 2 women with NAFLD (age: 45 ± 8 y, BMI: 28.7 ± 4.1 kg·m−2) completed a 6-week control period followed by 6 weeks of twice-weekly SIT sessions (5–10 × 6-s ‘all-out’ cycle sprints). Body composition, blood pressure, liver function, metabolic function, functional capacity, cognitive function and quality of life were assessed at baseline, following the control period, and following the SIT intervention. 

Results: Walking speed during the walk test (+12%), estimated V̇O2max (+8%), verbal fluency (+44%), and blood platelet count (+12%; all p < 0.05) significantly increased during the control period. These measures remained significantly raised compared to baseline following the SIT intervention, but did not significantly change any further compared to the post-control time-point. Diastolic blood pressure decreased from 87 ± 10 to 77 ± 8 mm Hg from the end of the control period to the end of the SIT intervention (p < 0.05). 

Conclusion: This study does not support the use of 6 weeks of a low volume SIT protocol involving twice-weekly sessions with 5–10 × 6-s ‘all-out’ cycle sprints as an intervention for NAFLD disease management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-92
Number of pages6
JournalThe Physician and Sportsmedicine
Issue number1
Early online date1 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2018


  • all-out
  • liver function
  • NASH
  • physical function
  • SIT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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