Does Becoming Fit Mean Feeling (f)it? A Comparison of Physiological and Experiential Fitness Data From the iReAct Study.

Gropper H; Mattioni Maturana F; Nieß AM; Thiel A;

Frontiers in sports and active living [Front Sports Act Living] 2021 Sep 01; Vol. 3, pp. 729090.
Date of Electronic Publication: 2021 Sep 01 (Print Publication: 2021).

Regular exercise fosters fitness-enhancing benefits. We assume that exercise interventions become successful and sustainable if physiological benefits of exercise are also subjectively perceivable. The goal of this study was to examine how young inactive adults physiologically respond to an exercise intervention and how those responses are subjectively experienced . Furthermore, we aimed to assess whether the sequence of two distinct endurance-based exercise modes has an impact on physiological and subjectively experienced physical fitness. Thirty-one young inactive adults were assessed for this substudy of the larger iReAct study. Participants were randomly assigned to a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or a moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) group for 6 weeks and subsequently switched groups for a second training period. Physiological fitness data was collected at baseline, follow-up I, and follow-up II using a graded cardiopulmonary exercise test. Subjectively reconstructed (i.e., retrospective constructions) experiences relating to physical fitness were assessed at follow-up II using a biographical mapping method. A repeated-measures one-way ANOVA on each training group was performed to see whether physiological and subjectively experienced fitness differed across training periods. The rate of change between all variables was calculated for the first and the second training period in order to compare the agreement between physiological and subjective fitness improvements. Participants increased their fitness across the intervention period both physiologically and subjectively. However, the rate of change depended on the sequence of the two training modes. While VO 2max increased significantly in both training periods in the MICT-HIIT sequence, a significant increase in VO 2max in the HIIT-MICT sequence was only observed in the HIIT period. Participants similarly perceived those increases subjectively in their exercise-related physical fitness, although they experienced a significant decrease in the second period of the HIIT-MICT sequence. For subjectively perceived physical fitness relating to everyday activities, significant increases were only observed for the first period of the MICT-HIIT sequence. Young inactive adults can improve both their physiological and their subjectively perceived fitness through regular exercise. However, exercise modes and their sequence can make a substantial difference regarding measured and perceived physical fitness. Additionally, despite a favorable tendency toward HIIT over MICT, inter- and intra-individual variability, particularly in the subjective experiences of fitness, reiterates the necessity of individualized approaches to exercise.