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The effects of high intensity interval training on perceived stress and cardiorespiratory fitness in Doctor of Physical Therapy students at California State University, Fresno: a pilot study
Stress-related mental health disorders are common amongst graduate students and can contribute to negative physiological and psychological outcomes including delayed academic success, sleep problems, and increased risk for cardiovascular disease. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is of particular interest to Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students as a stress management strategy that fits into their busy academic schedules while also benefitting one’s physical health. The purpose of this pilot study was to evaluate the effects of a HIIT program on perceived stress and cardiorespiratory fitness in DPT students at California State University, Fresno. Thirty-nine students self-selected into the intervention (n = 21) or control (n = 18) condition. The intervention group performed an 8-week HIIT program for a total of 16 sessions. Each session was 25 minutes in duration using a 45:15 second work:rest ratio. No statistical significance was found for perceived stress (p = 0.105) or cardiorespiratory fitness (p = 0.547). A trend toward significance was found such that a more significance decrease in perceived stress was found with increased participation in the HIIT sessions. The clinical implications of this pilot study indicate that HIIT can be an effective strategy to improve overall mental and physical health throughout the schooling process, but also as DPT students progress in their careers.