Researchers assess benefits of high intensity exercise and nutritional supplement regimes

Health researchers at Robert Gordon University (RGU) are working to identify the impact of a time-efficient exercise regime and nutritional supplements to improve health and reduce heart disease risk among overweight adults.

Research student Dean Leighton and Dr Giovanna Bermano.The study aims to assess the body’s oxidative stress and inflammation response following either High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), selenium supplements or a combination of both.

The research is being led by Dr Giovanna Bermano, co-director of the University’s Centre for Obesity Research and Education (CORE), alongside Dr Marie Goua from the School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences and Dr Katherine Burgess from the School of Health Sciences.

Research student Dean Leighton is also working on the study and aims to enlist healthy male participants from across the north-east.

Volunteers must be aged between 18-40 years old, with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 25 kg/m2 and currently undertaking less than one hour of structured exercise per week.

Mr Leighton said: “Sedentary and overweight individuals tend to have higher levels of oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, with prolonged high levels suggested as the initial triggers for heart disease development later in life.

“High Intensity Interval Training comprises repeated brief bursts of vigorous exercise interspersed with rest periods and is a very time-efficient and feasible exercise strategy for overweight adults to reduce heart disease risk and improve their health.

“This type of time-efficient exercise, requiring as little as 15-30 minutes of accumulative HIIT exercise per week can induce similar or greater fitness and muscle benefits compared to two or three hours of traditional moderate-intensity jogging or cycling exercise each week. However, very little is known about how HIIT exercise changes the oxidative stress and inflammation status of sedentary adults.”

Dr Bermano added: “Selenium is an essential micronutrient which increases the antioxidant activity of particular enzymes in the body. However, the majority of adults in the UK population have an inadequate intake of selenium; hence have sub-optimal antioxidant defence from oxidative stress and inflammation.

“This study will investigate the effectiveness of both HIIT exercise and selenium supplementation to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation status. It will also provide vital information to inform the effectiveness of HIIT exercise and selenium supplementation to reduce future cardiovascular disease risk in sedentary overweight adults.”

Those who take part in the research will be allocated randomly into one of three groups:

  • Group 1 – Exercise-only group: whereby you will attend the physiology labs (for eight weeks) three times a week to undertake the exercise training
  • Group 2 – Selenium supplementation group: whereby you would take a tablet daily (equivalent to 100ug of selenium) and are not required to regularly attend the labs
  • Group 3 – Combined exercise and selenium supplementation group: whereby you both attend the physiology labs (for 8 weeks) three times/week to undertake the exercise training AND consume 100ug of selenium daily

Participants who support the research will receive feedback on:

  • Body composition and body fat percentage, measured by ultrasound and 3D body scanning
  • Blood pressure measurements
  • Cardiorespiratory fitness measurements (VO2max)

To take part, contact Dean Leighton on 07793 766191 or email

Release by
Ross AndersonCommunications Officer | Health and Sport