There is evidence for the physical health benefits of high intensity interval exercise (HIIE), but its public health potential has been challenged. It is purported that compared with moderate-intensity continuous exercise (MICE) the high intensity nature of HIIE may lead to negative affective responses. This systematic review (PROSPERO CRD42017058203) addressed this proposition and synthesised research that compares affective responses to HIIE with MICE and vigorous intensity continuous exercise (VICE), during-, end-, and post-exercise. Searches were conducted on five databases, and findings from 33 studies were meta-analysed using random effects models or narratively synthesised. A meta-analysis of affect showed a significant effect in favour of MICE vs HIIE at the lowest point, during and post-exercise, but not at end, and the narrative synthesis supported this for other affective outcomes. Differences on affect between VICE vs HIIE were limited. Pooled data showed arousal levels were consistently higher during HIIE. For enjoyment there was a significant effect in favour of HIIE vs MICE, no difference for HIIE vs VICE at post-exercise, and mixed findings for during-exercise. Although the findings are clouded by methodological issues they indicate that compared to MICE, HIIE is experienced less positively but post-exercise is reported to be more enjoyable.
- physical activity