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Jinger S. Gottschall, Joshua J. Davis, Bryce Hastings, and Heather J. Porter

The growing prevalence and popularity of interval training necessitate additional guidelines in regard to maximal levels of time and intensity. Purpose: To correlate salivary hormones and time in varying heart-rate (HR) zones. The hypothesis was that chronic exercise durations >9% of total exercise time in the >90% maximum HR zone would lead to decreased variation in salivary cortisol concentration after exercise in a 2-bout high-intensity protocol compared with less or more time in this zone. Methods: A total of 35 healthy adults who regularly exercised for an average of 8 hours per week recorded their HR during every training session for 3 weeks. Later, they completed an experimental day composed of two 30-minute high-intensity interval sessions separated by 4 hours of nonactive recovery. The authors collected saliva samples before, immediately following, and 30 minutes after each exercise session to assess changes in cortisol concentrations. Results: There was a correlation between weekly time training at an intensity >90% maximum HR and the variables associated with overtraining. Salivary cortisol concentration fluctuated less in the participants who exercised in this extreme zone for >40 minutes per week (P < .001). Conclusion: Based on the current study data, for individuals who regularly exercise, 4% to 9% total training time above 90% maximum HR is the ideal duration to maximize fitness and minimize symptoms related to overreaching.