High intensity interval training good for people with fatty liver disease

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People with fatty liver disease may improve their heart function and liver health through high-intensity interval training (HIIT), according to new research from Flinders University and the University of Queensland.

However, many people with the condition are not aware of this potential benefit.

Dr. Shelley Keating from the University of Queensland stated that fatty liver disease affects approximately 25% of the global population and can lead to severe liver damage.

With no approved pharmaceutical treatments available, exercise and diet modification are currently the recommended strategies for managing the disease.

However, only 20% of those living with fatty liver disease meet the recommended physical activity guidelines.

The researchers found a general lack of awareness and experience with HIIT among the participants.

Some also expressed doubts about their ability to undertake such training due to various medical and social factors, like existing musculoskeletal conditions and other medical appointments, such as those for Type 2 diabetes.

Nevertheless, participants appreciated the support of exercise specialists, enjoyed the holistic benefits of HIIT, and recognized its potential in improving their health.

The 12-week exercise intervention consisted of three weekly HIIT sessions, each involving a 5-minute warm-up at 60% of the maximal heart rate (HRmax), four 4-minute intervals at 85%-95% HRmax, three-minute recovery periods at 60% HRmax, and a 5-minute cool-down.

The high-intensity intervals were rated as hard to very hard on a subjective exertion scale.

Dr. Matthew Wallen from Flinders University commented that previous joint studies had established HIIT as a feasible and beneficial exercise option for individuals with fatty liver disease.

However, given the typical fatigue, poor sleep, musculoskeletal concerns, and reduced capacity for daily activities often reported by these patients, the ability to exercise can be affected.

Dr. Wallen emphasized the need for individuals with fatty liver disease to seek advice and support from an appropriately qualified exercise professional or their health care provider before initiating a HIIT program.

The findings of this study will help inform future clinical programs aiming to improve the uptake of HIIT among people with steatohepatitis.

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The study was published in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Hepatology.

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