Sprint for Your Heart

High intensity exercise reduces cardiovascular disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) We already know that exercise is good for our hearts. So what kind of exercise is best for avoiding heart disease? In a recent study, researchers found sprinting is better than running a marathon.

For their study, researchers compared how high intensity exercise (short sprints) and moderate exercise (steady running) reduced the risks of heart disease. While both types of exercise reduced people's risk for heart disease, high intensity exercise worked much faster to reduce those risks.

"Short, intense exercise is good for your heart."

According to lead author Duncan Buchan from the University of the West of Scotland, this study is the first to show how brief and intense exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease in young people.

Buchan adds that more research is needed to examine the long-term effects of high intensity exercise on heart disease risk. For now, this study's findings show that people can improve their heart health without having to spend hours exercising.

In Depth

Buchan and colleagues studied how different types of exercise affected adolescents' risk of heart disease - or cardiovascular disease. They separated 57 boys and girls into two exercise groups that performed three exercise sessions per week for seven weeks.

During the exercise sessions, the first group practiced moderate exercise (steady running for 20 minutes) while the second group practiced high intensity exercise (a series of 20 meter sprints in 30 second intervals).

The researchers looked at participants' risk of cardiovascular disease using measures including cardiorespiratory fitness, blood pressure, body composition, and insulin resistance. Buchan's team found:

  • Both groups showed improvement in risk factors for cardiovascular disease
  • The total exercise time of the moderate exercise group was more than six times higher than that of the high intensity exercise group (420 minutes versus 63 minutes over the course of seven weeks)
  • Participants in the high intensity exercise group significantly reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease in 15 percent of the time it took participants in the moderate exercise group
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Review Date: 
April 19, 2011
Last Updated:
April 20, 2011