Sprinting is very intense and can only be performed for a very brief period, so it might be easy to conclude that running at a slower pace is a better choice for getting in shape because you can exercise for a longer period of time and thus burn more calories. Sprinting, however, has been proven to be more effective for burning fat and increasing strength.
Take a look at any gym and you'll notice that running at a moderate pace is a go-to cardio activity for people trying to lose weight. It is indeed an effective weight-loss exercise. In fact, an average 140-pound woman can burn approximately 254 calories in 30 minutes when running at a pace of 5 mph. Jogging is also the best moderate exercise option for fat loss. A study published in the May 1996 issue of the "Journal of the American Medical Association" concluded that people who jogged on the treadmill burned more calories than when they used other indoor exercise machines at the same levels of perceived exertion.
Sprinting and EPOC
Sprinting, because it is more intense, will burn more calories than jogging. The caveat is that few people can actually sprint more than a minute at a time. What makes sprinting a better calorie burner in the long run is excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. After high-intensity exercise, it can take your body up to 48 hours to fully recover to a resting rate. In those 48 hours, you continue to burn calories at an elevated rate. That means you will be burning calories long after you have finished your workout.
Sprinting and Strength
Being in shape does not only include losing fat. Gaining strength is also important for overall health. A study published in the March 1996 issue of the "European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology" found that just a 30-second sprint actually releases growth hormone and that an hour after sprinting, growth hormone levels were still 10 times higher than they were at a normal resting rate. Growth hormone increases muscle mass and even has anti-aging qualities.
Since you won't be able to sprint for very long, the best way to incorporate sprinting into your workout is to perform intervals. Alternate short spurts of between 30 and 60 seconds of sprinting with longer active recovery periods of one or two minutes of walking or slow jogging. Repeat the intervals several times to create a workout approximately 20 minutes in length, including a warm-up and cool-down. You can vary the length and intensity of your intervals, beginning with a quick jog and slowly progressing to a fast sprint as your heart, muscles and joints become accustomed to the exercise.
Sprinting is so taxing on your body that it may not be the right exercise for everyone. Of course beginners should always start running at a slower pace and work up their intensity gradually, but sprinting may also be dangerous if you have a chronic health condition. You may also not be a good candidate for sprinting if you have pre-existing hip, knee or ankle issues because this exercise is very high impact on your lower body joints. Always speak to your doctor before embarking on any new or intense exercise regimen.
- American Council on Exercise: Tools and Calculators: Physical Activity Calorie Counter
- Journal of the American Medical Association: Energy Expenditure With Indoor Exercise Machines
- University of New Mexico: Exercise After-Burn: Research Update
- MayoClinic.com: Rev Up Your Workout With Interval Training
- European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology: Growth Hormone Responses to Treadmill Sprinting in Sprint- and Endurance-trained Athletes; M.E. Nevill et al
- Journal of Obesity: The Effect of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise on Body Composition of Overweight Young Males; M. Haydari et al
- American Council on Exercise: Fit Facts: High Intensity Interval Training
- NBA.com: Tips for Improving Running Speed
- Fitness: Burn 500 Calories With Treadmill Intervals
Andrea Chrysanthou began writing professionally in 1993. Her work has been published internationally by "The Cyprus Mail," MochaSofa and My Favorite Trainer, among other magazines and websites. She holds a Bachelor of Applied Arts in journalism from Ryerson University. Chrysanthou is a certified fitness instructor and personal-training specialist with more than 10 years of experience in the fitness industry.