KEY POINTS: Skeletal muscle capillary density and vasoreactivity are reduced in obesity, due to reduced nitric oxide bioavailability. Sprint interval training (SIT) has been proposed as a time efficient alternative to moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT), but its effect on the skeletal muscle microvasculature has not been studied in obese individuals. We observed that SIT and MICT led to equal increases in capillarisation and endothelial eNOS content, while reducing endothelial NOX2 content in microvessels of young obese men. We conclude that SIT is equally effective at improving skeletal muscle capillarisation and endothelial enzyme balance, while being a time efficient alternative to traditional MICT.
ABSTRACT: Sprint interval training (SIT) has been proposed as a time efficient alternative to moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT), leading to similar improvements in skeletal muscle capillary density and microvascular function in young healthy humans. In this study we made the first comparisons of the muscle microvascular response to SIT and MICT in an obese population. Sixteen young obese men (age 25 ± 1 years, BMI 34.8 ± 0.9 kg m(-2) ) were randomly assigned to 4 weeks of MICT (40-60 min cycling at ∼65% V̇O2 peak , 5 times per week) or constant load SIT (4-7 constant workload intervals of 200% Wmax 3 times per week). Muscle biopsies were taken before and after training from the m. vastus lateralis to measure muscle microvascular endothelial eNOS content, eNOS serine(1177) phosphorylation, NOX2 content and capillarisation using quantitative immunofluorescence microscopy. Maximal aerobic capacity (V̇O2 peak ), whole body insulin sensitivity and arterial stiffness were also assessed. SIT and MICT increased skeletal muscle microvascular eNOS content and eNOS ser(1177) phosphorylation in terminal arterioles and capillaries (P < 0.05), but the latter effect was eliminated when normalised to eNOS content (P = 0.217). SIT and MICT also reduced microvascular endothelial NOX2 content (P < 0.05) and both increased capillary density and capillary-fibre perimeter exchange index (P < 0.05). In parallel, SIT and MICT increased V̇O2 peak (P < 0.05) and whole body insulin sensitivity (P < 0.05), and reduced central artery stiffness (P < 0.05). As no significant differences were observed between SIT and MICT it is concluded that SIT is a time efficient alternative to MICT to improve aerobic capacity, insulin sensitivity and muscle capillarisation and endothelial eNOS/NAD(P)Hoxidase protein ratio in young obese men.