This study aimed to determine the effects of a single high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session on salivary cortisol (SC) levels, physiological responses, and performance in trained boys and men. Twenty-three boys (11.5 ± 0.8 years) and 25 men (29.7 ± 4.6 years) performed HIIT (4 consecutive Wingate Anaerobic Tests). SC in boys and men increased after HIIT from 5.55 ± 3.3 nmol/l to 15.13 ± 9.7 nmol/l (+173%) and from 7.07 ± 4.7 nmol/l to 19.19 ± 12.7 nmol/l (+171%), respectively (p < .01). Pretest SC as well as posttest changes were comparable in both groups (both p < .01). Peak blood lactate concentration was significantly lower in boys (12.6 ± 3.5 mmol/l) than in men (16.3 ± 3.1 mmol/l; p < .01). Throughout the HIIT, mean heart rates in boys were higher (p < .001) but relative peak oxygen uptake (ml·min−1·kg−1; p < .05) and performance were lower (p < .001) in boys than in men. HIIT in young athletes is associated with a higher activation of the hormonal stress axis than other types of exercise regimes as described in the literature. This study is the first to show a pronounced SC increase to HIIT in trained boys accompanied by elevated levels of blood lactate concentrations and heart rate suggesting a high cardio-respiratory, metabolic, and hormonal response to HIIT in 11-year-old boys.
Engel and Bös are with the Research Centre for School Sports and the Physical Education of Children and Adolescents, and Härtel the Institute of Sports and Sports Science, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany. Wagner is with the Division of Sport Science, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany. Strahler is with the Dept. of Psychology, University of Marburg, Marburg, Germany. Sperlich is with the Institute of Sport Science, Julius-Maximilians University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany. Address author correspondence to Florian Engel at firstname.lastname@example.org.