Left atrial mechanics and aortic stiffness following high intensity interval training: a randomised controlled study



High intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown to improve important health parameters, including aerobic capacity, blood pressure, cardiac autonomic modulation and left ventricular (LV) mechanics. However, adaptations in left atrial (LA) mechanics and aortic stiffness remain unclear.


Forty-one physically inactive males and females were recruited. Participants were randomised to either a 4-week HIIT intervention (n = 21) or 4-week control period (n = 20). The HIIT protocol consisted of 3 × 30-s maximal cycle ergometer sprints with a resistance of 7.5% body weight, interspersed with 2-min of active unloaded recovery, three times per week. Speckle tracking imaging of the LA and M-Mode tracing of the aorta was performed pre and post HIIT and control period.


Following HIIT, there was significant improvement in LA mechanics, including LA reservoir (13.9 ± 13.4%, p = 0.033), LA conduit (8.9 ± 11.2%, p = 0.023) and LA contractile (5 ± 4.5%, p = 0.044) mechanics compared to the control condition. In addition, aortic distensibility (2.1 ± 2.7 cm2 dyn−1 103, p = 0.031) and aortic stiffness index (− 2.6 ± 4.6, p = 0.041) were improved compared to the control condition. In stepwise linear regression analysis, aortic distensibility change was significantly associated with LA stiffness change R2 of 0.613 (p = 0.002).


A short-term programme of HIIT was associated with a significant improvement in LA mechanics and aortic stiffness. These adaptations may have important health implications and contribute to the improved LV diastolic and systolic mechanics, aerobic capacity and blood pressure previously documented following HIIT.

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Analysis of covariance


Blood pressure


Cardiovascular disease


Diastolic blood pressure


High intensity interval training


Interventricular septal diameter diastole


Left atrial


Left ventricle


Mean blood pressure


Myocardial performance index


Nitric oxide


Peak atrial longitudinal strain


Physical activity


Posterior wall thickness diastole


Region of interest


Systolic blood pressure


Vascular smooth muscle


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We would like to thank all the participants for their participation in the study.


None declared.

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JO’D, NJ, JDW and RS conception and design of research; JO’D, NJ, SB, and KAT performed experiments; JO’D, NJ, SB, KAT, and DC analysed data; JO’D, NJ, SB, KAT, JDW, DAC, LH, OM, JC, IBW, and RS interpreted results of experiments; JO’D prepared figures; JO’D, NJ, SB, KAT, JDW, DAC, LH, OM, JC, IBW, and RS drafted manuscript; JO’D, NJ, SB, KAT, JDW, DAC, LH, OM, JC, IBW, and RS edited and revised manuscript; JO’D, NJ, SB, KAT, JDW, DAC, LH, OM, JC, IBW, and RS approved final version of manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jamie M. O’Driscoll.

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Jalaludeen, N., Bull, S.J., Taylor, K.A. et al. Left atrial mechanics and aortic stiffness following high intensity interval training: a randomised controlled study. Eur J Appl Physiol 120, 1855–1864 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-020-04416-3

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  • Aortic stiffness
  • Left atrial mechanics
  • HIIT