Sprint training is one of the best cardiovascular exercises you can do. Studies have shown that the strength, endurance and heart health gained by short-interval sprinting can often surpass the benefits of traditional cardio exercises or even longer distance running.
Sprint (or short-interval) training involves runners trying to reach their maximum speed over short distances, anywhere from 20 to 60m. The idea is to repeatedly push your muscles and cardiovascular system to the limit.
The sprinting distance that you choose will vary depending on your training goal. Regardless, it is important to rest between sprints, to let your heart return to its normal rate. Experts suggest sprinting for about 20 to 40 seconds, followed by 60 seconds of cool-down. Repeat this process six to eight times.
Scientists at McMaster University found that just six minutes of sprint training could provide as many benefits to your health as an hour of moderate activity. Among these benefits are increased metabolism, increased ability to break down fat in the body, more rapid breakdown of sugars in the body and increased ability to buffer (strengthen) muscles.
Many people turn to sprinting specifically for its aerobic benefits. Sprint training increases your cardiovascular strength by pushing your heart to pump faster and more efficiently. During sprinting, more blood is being pumped out of the heart per beat. Rapid cool-down periods, coupled with increased postexercise oxygen levels in the blood, lead to enhanced capillary density. This, in turn, improves your body's ability to burn calories.
Always stretch and warm up your muscles before sprinting. Muscle elasticity is crucial to running exercises. If your muscles are not properly prepared, you may stretch or tear a muscle or ligament.