Young people * Healthy living

Sprint as good as a marathon for a healthy heart

Sprints better for the heart than long distance running Fitness study

Short sprints is better for preventing heart disease than long distance running, a study has found.

On a study in teenagers, scientists found that a series of high intensity short sprints were more beneficial for your heart than three twenty minute runs a week.

The scientists from the University of the of West Scotland looked at the effect of both types of exercise on factors used to predict heart disease.

Forty seven boys and ten girls, were randomly divided into moderate (MOD) and high intensity (HIT) exercise groups.

Both groups performed three weekly exercise sessions over seven weeks.

The HIT group's training consisted of a series of 20 meter sprints over 30 seconds. In contrast, the MOD group ran steadily for a period of 20 minutes.

By the end of the study, the MOD group had completed 420 minutes of exercise while the HIT group had trained for just 63 minutes. The HIT group burned 907 calories compared with 4410 for the MOD group.

However, both groups showed improvements in factors which could lead to heart disease.

As the total exercise time over seven weeks was six times higher for the MOD group compared to the HIT group, the researchers concluded that high intensity exercise was a "time efficient means for improving cardiovascular fitness in adolescents."

Duncan Buchan from the University of the West of Scotland, who led the study said: "Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of mortality throughout the world and its risk factors have their origins in childhood.

"This is the first study to demonstrate the effects of a novel interval training programme on both traditional and novel CVD risk factors in adolescents.

"Larger scale and extended interventions must be undertaken so that the long term impact and effects of intermittent training programmes on unfavourable metabolic profiles may be investigated further."

Cathy Ross, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "The results are another reminder that any type of physical activity, performed at the right level, is essential for long term health and need not take over our lives."

The findings are published in the American Journal of Human Biology.

This article was published on Wed 6 April 2011

Image © Fotolia

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