High-intensity interval training (HIIT) in hypoxia improves maximal aerobic capacity more than HIIT in normoxia: a systematic review, meta-analysis, and meta-regression

Ailsa Westmacott, Nilihan E. M. Sanal-Hayes, Marie McLaughlin, Jacqueline L. Mair*, Lawrence D. Hayes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
48 Downloads (Pure)


The present study aimed to determine the effect of high intensity interval training (HIIT) in hypoxia on maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) compared with HIIT in normoxia with a Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA)-accordant meta-analysis and meta-regression. Studies which measured VO2max following a minimum of 2 weeks intervention featuring HIIT in hypoxia versus HIIT in normoxia were included. From 119 originally identified titles, nine studies were included (n = 194 participants). Meta-analysis was conducted on change in (∆) VO2max using standardised mean difference (SMD) and a random effects model. Meta-regression examined the relationship between the extent of environmental hypoxia (fractional inspired oxygen [FiO2]) and ∆VO2max and intervention duration and ∆VO2max. The overall SMD for ∆VO2max following HIIT in hypoxia was 1.14 (95% CI = 0.56–1.72; p < 0.001). Meta-regressions identified no significant relationship between FiO2 (coefficient estimate = 0.074, p = 0.852) or intervention duration (coefficient estimate = 0.071, p = 0.423) and ∆VO2max. In conclusion, HIIT in hypoxia improved VO2max compared to HIIT in normoxia. Neither extent of hypoxia, nor training duration modified this effect, however the range in FiO2 was small, which limits interpretation of this meta-regression. Moreover, training duration is not the only training variable known to influence ∆VO2max, and does not appropriately capture total training stress or load. This meta-analysis provides pooled evidence that HIIT in hypoxia may be more efficacious at improving VO2max than HIIT in normoxia. The application of these data suggest adding a hypoxic stimuli to a period of HIIT may be more effective at improving VO2max than HIIT alone. Therefore, coaches and athletes with access to altitude (either natural or simulated) should consider implementing HIIT in hypoxia, rather than HIIT in normoxia where possible, assuming no negative side effects.
Original languageEnglish
Article number14261
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022


  • altitude
  • sprint
  • training
  • endurance
  • VO2max


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