Science-- there's something for everyone

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sprinting is good for the heart

An international team of scientists led by Duncan Buchan from the University of the West of Scotland has determined that cardiovascular benefits can be achieved in one seventh the time by sprinting.

About thirty kids aged 15 or 16 were recruited for the study. Half the kids were in an endurance group. These kids were instructed to run steadily for 20 minutes at a pace predetermined to bring them to about 70% of their VO2max. They repeated this exercise at least three times a week for seven weeks. The other half of the kids were in a sprinting group. These kids were told to run full out for thirty seconds, rest for thirty seconds, then sprint again. They did four to six sprints at a time, three times a week for seven weeks. Another twenty-four kids who were not given any exercise instructions served as a control.

A series of metabolic measurements including triglycerides, insulin sensitivity and cholesterol were taken from each child both before and after the seven week training regiment. Body fat percentage, blood pressure and aerobic fitness were also compared between the groups.

Both groups showed significant improvement in overall health as compared to the control group. The endurance group showed a greater increase in aerobic fitness, but the sprinting group seemed to show a greater metabolic benefit. However, one thing to keep in mind is that the endurance group ran for a total of 420 minutes over seven weeks, whereas the sprinting group only ran for 63 minutes during that same time period. In other words, the sprinting kids made some respectable health gains in very little time.

To be clear, if you choose to exercise like a sprinter, you really have to push yourself to run at your maximum pace. You can’t get these health benefits by jogging for two minutes a day. Also, sprinters have to take greater care not to injure themselves. However, for the time-constrained, it’s nice to know that it doesn’t take that long to achieve better health.

Photo by Usien, 8/7/2009.