Yvonne Golightly, PT, PhD, is Conducting Innovative Research Into the Effectiveness of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for Knee Osteoarthritis

UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center investigator Yvonne Golightly, PT, PhD, and her colleague Abbie Smith-Ryan, PhD, (UNC Department of Exercise and Sport Science), are researching High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) as a new, promising approach to add to rehabilitation programs for people with knee osteoarthritis. HIIT includes very short periods of vigorous exercise, as opposed to longer periods of moderately paced exercise. The research is made possible thanks to funding from the NIH National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHID).

Physical activity is recommended for people with knee osteoarthritis, which is a leading cause of disability in the U.S.  Unfortunately, few people with knee osteoarthritis get the recommended amount of physical activity (at least 150 minutes/week of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes/week of vigorous exercise) because of physical limitations, pain, or feeling that they do not having enough time to exercise. 

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is being tested as new way to help overcome these barriers for people with knee osteoarthritis.  HIIT requires minimal time commitment (10 minutes of exercise two times/week).  Although HIIT is often thought of as an exercise approach to improve sport performance in athletes, it can be performed by people with many different levels of physical fitness because it can be customized to the unique needs and abilities of each person.  HIIT programs have been safely performed among people with other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

Finding new treatment approaches for osteoarthritis is a crucial step needed to lessen the rising public health burden of knee osteoarthritis.  It is hoped that HIIT programs can further advance physical therapy approaches by helping individuals with knee OA improve their ability to perform activities of daily life, reduce their pain, and enhance their overall health. 

Dr. Golightly is an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, an adjunct Assistant Professor in the Division of Physical Therapy, and a researcher at the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center as well as the Injury Prevention Research Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.