Preventive Cardio-Oncology: The Role Of High Intensity Interval Training

Heart disease is the number one killer of survivors of cancer1, 2, 3. It is our responsibility to help our patients with cancer understand and mitigate this risk. Prevention of heart disease in these patients should occur at three stages: in Cardio-Oncology prehabilitation2, 4, habilitation2, 4, and rehabilitation2, 4, 5. At all three stages, exercise is a key component and can be optimized with consideration of high intensity interval training (HIIT).

HIIT has emerged as an exercise structure that adds more efficiency and power to typical continuous exercise regimens. Studies in the general population suggest that HIIT is safe and non-inferior or superior to continuous exercise regimens in its effect on fitness6, 7, lipids7, 8, blood pressure9, blood glucose levels9, waist circumference8, body fat percentage7, 8, insulin resistance7, and more. Beneficial findings and safety have also been reported for individuals with cardiovascular disease (including coronary artery disease and heart failure)10, as well as cancer11.

The format of HIIT is just as it sounds – incorporating high intensity intervals into exercise training. This is not necessarily training for marathons, sprints, or triathlons. This is training for life. Life that individuals with cancer fight so hard for. We owe it to these individuals to help them live their best life when their cancer is in remission. Part of that is their best heart health, and incorporating heart-healthy behaviors most seamlessly into their daily lives. One safe, effective, and efficient way to do that is with HIIT. In HIIT, following warmup individuals work out at high intensity for 30-120 seconds, then either rest or work out at low/moderate intensity for 30-120, alternating between the two for the duration of their set-aside exercise time or program. For example, an individual on a bicycle would cycle at 10 mph for 30-120 seconds, then at 0 or 5-9 mph for 30-120 seconds, alternating between the two for the duration of their set-aside exercise time or program. The new physical activity and prevention of cardiovascular disease guidelines provide great additional examples of moderate versus high intensity aerobic exercises12, 13.

A recent article suggested that HIIT may be the answer to meeting the needs of women in cardiac rehabilitation14. Indeed, HIIT may also be part of the solution to meeting the needs of women in Cardio-Oncology prehabilitation, habilitation, and rehabilitation. Yet for several years, clinicians and researchers have noted a myriad of barriers faced by women in cardiac rehabilitation14, 15, and that a plethora of women are not referred to cardiac rehab at all15. Besides time and accessibility limitations, other reported barriers include lower education level, multiple comorbid conditions, non-English native language, lack of social support, and high burden of family responsibilities. It should therefore be noted that while HIIT may serve as part of the answer to meeting the needs of women in cardiac rehabilitation or in Cardio-Oncology prehabilitation, habilitation, and rehabilitation, other solutions will be needed to address the variety of barriers unrelated to time and accessibility. The use of automatic referral and assisted enrollment can improve the participation of women in cardiac rehabilitation15, while incentive-based strategies and home-based programs may enhance program completion15. Additional solutions will be needed to address remaining barriers, such as health literacy related to lower education level, multiple comorbidities, non-English native language, high burden of family responsibilities, and of course adverse effects of cancer therapies.

As we step out into and carry on in our Early Careers, it is important for us to be aware of high intensity interval training and its incredible potential to elevate our care of women and men in cardiac rehabilitation in Preventive Cardiology, as well as in Cardio-Oncology prehabilitation, habilitation, and rehabilitation.

1. Mehta LS, Watson KE, Barac A, Beckie TM, Bittner V, Cruz-Flores S, Dent S, Kondapalli L, Ky B, Okwuosa T, Piña IL, Volgman AS; American Heart Association Cardiovascular Disease in Women and Special Populations Committee of the Council on Clinical Cardiology; Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing; and Council on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research. Cardiovascular Disease and Breast Cancer: Where These Entities Intersect: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. 2018 Feb 20;137(8):e30-e66. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000556. Epub 2018 Feb 1.

2. Squires RW, Shultz AM, Herrmann J. Exercise Training and Cardiovascular Health in Cancer Patients. Curr Oncol Rep. 2018 Mar 10;20(3):27. doi: 10.1007/s11912-018-0681-2.

3. Patnaik JL, Byers T, DiGuiseppi C, Dabelea D, Denberg TD. Cardiovascular disease competes with breast cancer as the leading cause of death for older females diagnosed with breast cancer: a retrospective cohort study. Breast Cancer Res. 2011 Jun 20;13(3):R64. doi: 10.1186/bcr2901.

4. Accessed April 20, 2019.

5. Gilchrist SC, Barac A, Ades PA, Alfano CM, Franklin BA, Jones LW, La Gerche A, Ligibel JA, Lopez G, Madan K, Oeffinger KC, Salamone J, Scott JM, Squires RW, Thomas RJ, Treat-Jacobson DJ, Wright JS; American Heart Association Exercise, Cardiac Rehabilitation, and Secondary Prevention Committee of the Council on Clinical Cardiology; Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing; and Council on Peripheral Vascular Disease. Cardio-Oncology Rehabilitation to Manage Cardiovascular Outcomes in Cancer Patients and Survivors: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2019 Apr 8:CIR0000000000000679. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000679. [Epub ahead of print].

6. Su L, Fu J, Sun S, Zhao G, Cheng W, Dou C, Quan M. Effects of HIIT and MICT on cardiovascular risk factors in adults with overweight and/or obesity: A meta-analysis. PLoS One 2019 Jan 28;14(1):e0210644. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0210644. eCollection 2019.

7. Fisher G, Brown AW, Bohan Brown MM, Alcorn A, Noles C, Winwood L, Resuehr H, George B, Jeansonne MM, Allison DB. High Intensity Interval- vs Moderate Intensity- Training for Improving Cardiometabolic Health in Overweight or Obese Males: A Randomized Controlled Trial. PLoS One 2015 Oct 21;10(10):e0138853. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0138853. eCollection 2015.

8. Stavrinou PS, Bogdanis GC, Giannaki CD, Terzis G, Hadjicharalambous M. High-intensity Interval Training Frequency: Cardiometabolic Effects and Quality of Life. Int J Sports Med. 2018 Feb;39(3):210-217. doi: 10.1055/s-0043-125074. Epub 2018 Feb 2.

9. Batacan RB Jr, Duncan MJ, Dalbo VJ, Tucker PS, Fenning AS. Effects of high-intensity interval training on cardiometabolic health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention studies. Br J Sports Med. 2017 Mar;51(6):494-503. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-095841. Epub 2016 Oct 20. Review.

10. Wewege MA, Ahn D, Yu J, Liou K, Keech A. High Intensity Interval Training for Patients With Cardiovascular Disease—Is It Safe? A Systematic Review. J Am Heart Assoc. 2018 Nov 6;7(21):e009305. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.118.009305.

11. Mugele H, Freitag N, Wilhelmi J, Yang Y, Cheng S, Bloch W, Schumann M. High-intensity interval training in the therapy and aftercare of cancer patients: a systematic review with meta-analysis.
Mugele H, Freitag N, Wilhelmi J, Yang Y, Cheng S, Bloch W, Schumann M.
J Cancer Surviv. 2019 Apr;13(2):205-223. doi: 10.1007/s11764-019-00743-3. Epub 2019 Feb 26. Review.

12. Piercy KL, Troiano RP, Ballard RM, Carlson SA, Fulton JE, Galuska DA, George SM, Olson RD. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. JAMA. 2018 Nov 20;320(19):2020-2028. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.14854.

13. Arnett DK, Blumenthal RS, Albert MA, Buroker AB, Goldberger ZD, Hahn EJ, Himmelfarb CD, Khera A, Lloyd-Jones D, McEvoy JW, Michos ED, Miedema MD, Muñoz D, Smith SC Jr, Virani SS, Williams KA Sr, Yeboah J, Ziaeian B. 2019 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: Executive Summary: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines.
J Am Coll Cardiol. 2019 Mar 17. pii: S0735-1097(19)33876-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2019.03.009.

14. Way KL, Reed JL. Meeting the Needs of Women in Cardiac Rehabilitation. Circulation. 2019; 139(10):1247–1248.

15. Supervía M, Medina-Inojosa JR, Yeung C, Lopez-Jimenez F, Squires RW, Pérez-Terzic CM, Brewer LC, Leth SE, Thomas RJ. Cardiac Rehabilitation for Women: A Systematic Review of Barriers and Solutions. Mayo Clin Proc. 2017 Mar 13. pii: S0025-6196(17)30026-5. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2017.01.002. [Epub ahead of print] Review.