The effect of high-intensity interval training on inhibitory control in adolescents hospitalized for a mental illness.



Inhibitory control is essential for treatment of, and recovery from mental illness. An acute bout of exercise has been shown to improve inhibitory control in healthy adolescents.


The primary goal was to examine the effect of an acute bout of high-intensity interval training on inhibitory control both immediately and 30-min post-exercise in adolescents hospitalized for a mental illness.


Participants were recruited at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. Participants performed exercise and control conditions in a randomized, counterbalanced manner. The Colour-Word Stroop Task (CWST) assessed Interference Cost (reaction time) pre, post, and 30-min post for each condition (exercise/control). The exercise condition included a 12-min HIIT circuit consisting of body weight exercises performed in a 1:1 work to rest ratio. The control condition involved reading magazines. Repeated-measures ANOVA evaluated changes in the interference cost and accuracy measures of the CWST.


There was a significant interaction between condition and time for the interference cost measure, F(1.6,43.3) = 13.6, p < .0001, η2 = .34. Interference cost was significantly reduced immediately after exercise compared to control (Mdiff = 78.8 ± 14.91, p < .001) and 30-min post-exercise compared to control (Mdiff = 59.6 ± 15.14, p = .001). Accuracy did not differ by time, F(2,54) = .14, p ≤ .87, η2 = .01 nor condition, F(1,27) = 2.25, p = .15, η2 = .08.


HIIT was able to improve inhibitory control by increasing response efficiency rather than improving the overall ability to respond correctly. The impact of pre-therapy HIIT to enhance focus and reduce impulsive thoughts and behaviours may improve adolescent patients’ response to mental health treatment.

Lead Researchers

Link to Publication


  1. Patricia Longmuir

    Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute

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