Development of innovative and time-efficient strategies to involve youth in physical activity is pivotal in the actual inactivity pandemic. Moreover, physical activity may improve academic performance, of great interest for educators.
This present systematic review aimed to analyze the effects of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) on cognitive performance and psychological outcomes in youth. A database search (Web of Science, PubMed, Scopus, and PsycINFO) for original research articles was performed. A total of eight articles met the inclusion criteria, and the Cochrane risk of bias tool was used. The studies' results were recalculated to determine effect sizes using Cohen's d. Different HIIT interventions reported improvements on cognitive performance at executive function (d = 0.75, +78.56%), linguistic reasoning (d = 0.25, +7.66%), concentration (d = 0.71, +61.10%), selective attention (d = 0.81, +60.73%), non-verbal and verbal abilities (d = 0.88, +47.50%; d = 1.58, +22.61%, respectively), abstract reasoning (d = 0.75, +44.50%), spatial and numerical abilities (d = 37.19, +22.85%; d = 1.20, +8.28%, respectively), and verbal reasoning (d = 1.00, +15.71%) in youth. Regarding psychological outcomes, HIIT showed higher self-concept (d = 0.28, +8.71%) and psychological well-being in boys and girls (d = 0.73, +32.43%, d = 0.39, +11.58%, respectively).
To sum up, HIIT interventions between 4-16 weeks, for 8-30 min/session, at >=85% maximal heart rate, would provide positive effects on cognitive performance and psychological outcomes in youth.
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