Not just for jocks: Preference, tolerance, enjoyment, and performance of high-intensity interval training in athletes and non-athletes


Preference of exercise intensity is suggested to influence the exercise experience, and ultimately, adherence (ACSM, 2000). Dual mode model proposes that exercise performed at an intensity above ventilatory threshold, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), elicits negative affect. Interindividual differences such as positive past experiences may enhance pleasurability, and ultimately preference, of vigorous exercise. Athletes who frequently engage in interval-based exercise may have greater preference and tolerability of HIIT. This study examined preference, tolerance, enjoyment, and performance of HIIT in athletes and nonathletes. Nineteen varsity soccer players (15 men) and 20 nonathlete students (13 men) completed the Preference and Tolerance for High-Intensity Exercise Questionnaire (PRETIE-Q), followed by an incremental test to fatigue to ascertain WRpeak. One week later, participants performed as many intervals as possible at 100% WRpeak, to a maximum of 12. Enjoyment and exercise preference for future exercise bouts were assessed following the exercise. There was no significant difference in the Preference subscale of the PRETIE-Q between athletes and non-athletes (p = .60). However, there was a significant difference in the Tolerance subscale, F(1,35) = 5.51, p  = .03, such that athletes reported having greater tolerance for higher intensity exercise than nonathletes. Neither preference nor tolerance predicted the number of high-intensity intervals an individual volitionally performed (p’s > .05). Enjoyment of HIIT did not differ between athletes and nonathletes (p = .38). There was also no difference in the modality athletes and non athletes would choose to do on a regular basis χ(2) = 1.04, p = .594, with the majority choosing vigorous or HIIT activities over moderate-intensity exercise. These results suggest that familiarity with HIIT may not impact an individual’s preference for high-intensity exercise. Athletes and non-athletes appear to enjoy HIIT to the same degree, suggesting HIIT may represent a viable exercise strategy within non-athletic populations.