The Effects of Interval and Continuous Training on the Oxygen Cost of Running in Recreational Runners: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

  • Fernando González-Mohíno
  • Jordan Santos-Concejero
  • Inmaculada Yustres
  • José M. González-RavéEmail author
Systematic Review



Oxygen cost of running is largely influenced by endurance training strategies, including interval and continuous training. However, which training method better reduces the oxygen cost remains unknown.


This study aimed to systematically review the scientific literature and performs a meta-analysis to address the effects of different endurance training modalities on the oxygen cost of running.


A literature search on 3 databases (MEDLINE, SPORTDiscus and Web of Science) was conducted on February 28, 2019. After analysing 8028 resultant articles, studies were included if they met the following inclusion criteria: (a) studies were randomised controlled trials, (b) studies included trained runners without previous injuries (c) interventions lasted at least 6 weeks, with participants allocated to Interval (INT) or Continuous (CON) groups, and (d) oxygen cost was assessed pre- and post-training intervention. Six studies (seven trials) met the inclusion criteria and were included in the meta-analysis. This resulted in 295 participants (n = 200 INT; n = 95 CON training method). Standardised mean difference with 95% confidence intervals (CI) between INT and CON conditions and effect sizes were calculated. To assess the potential effects of moderator variables (such as, age, VO2max of participants, number of weeks of intervention) on main outcome (oxygen cost of running), subgroup analyses were performed.


Comparing changes from pre- to post-intervention, oxygen cost improved to a greater extent in CON when compared to INT interventions (0.28 [95% CI 0.01, 0.54], Z = 2.05, p = 0.04, I2 = 30%). Oxygen cost improvements were larger in participants with higher VO2max (≥ 52.3 ml kg−1 min−1) (0.39 [95% CI 0.06, 0.72], Z = 2.34, p = 0.02), and in programs greater or equal to 8 weeks (0.35 [95% CI 0.03, 0.67], Z = 2.13, p = 0.03). When the total volume per week of INT was ≥ 23.2 min, there was a significant improvement favorable to CON (0.34 [95% CI 0.01, 0.61], Z = 2.02, p = 0.04).


Continuous training seems, overall, a better strategy than interval training to reduce the oxygen cost in recreational endurance runners. However, oxygen cost reductions are influenced by several variables including the duration of the program, runners’ aerobic capacity, the intervals duration and the volume of interval training per week. Practitioners and coaches should construct training programs that include both endurance training methods shown to be effective in reducing the oxygen cost of running.


Compliance with Ethical Standards


No sources of funding were used in the preparation of this article.

Conflict of interest

Fernando González-Mohíno, Jordan Santos-Concejero, Inmaculada Yustres and José María González-Ravé declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fernando González-Mohíno
    • 1
    • 3
  • Jordan Santos-Concejero
    • 2
  • Inmaculada Yustres
    • 1
  • José M. González-Ravé
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Sport Training Lab., Faculty of Sport SciencesUniversity of Castilla la ManchaToledoSpain
  2. 2.Department of Physical Education and SportUniversity of the Basque Country UPV/EHUVitoria-GasteizSpain
  3. 3.Facultad de Lenguas y EducaciónUniversidad NebrijaMadridSpain

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