Did you know that daily activities, such as jogging, can curb the development of risk factors for heart disease and stroke by as much as 50 percent?1 And high-intensity sprints, when performed in short bursts, not only help your muscles and your performance but also improve the function and structure of the arteries that deliver blood to your muscles and the heart.2
Essentially, jogging involves running at a slow pace (less than 6 mph) for a long time, while sprinting involves running at a faster pace (typically, 6 mph, or more) for a shorter duration. If you are struggling to choose between the two, you need to first consider your goal (lose weight, develop muscles, reduce stress, etc.) before you make your choice.
Sprinting Burns More Fat
As a high-intensity exercise, sprinting is a form of anaerobic exercise, which means that the body does not rely on oxygen to fuel your workout but on the fat in your muscles and the stored glycogen—a kind of glucose that your body stores as an energy reserve. So, more calories are burned efficiently in the muscles during and even after an anaerobic exercise, which directly leads to weight loss. It also helps improve endurance and fitness in athletes.3
In fact, you can burn as many as 200 calories in as little as 2.5 minutes with sprint interval training (SIT), where you perform a short session of high-intensity running and then recover for a longer period with easy exercises.
Jogging, on the other hand, is an aerobic exercise and relies on oxygen to fuel your workout without drawing additional energy from the body. Naturally, you burn fewer calories.
- Like every exercise, sprinting also begins as an aerobic exercise. But as you reach closer to your maximal limit of oxygen intake, the oxygen you breathe in is no longer sufficient to fuel your run. This is when your body switches to anaerobic respiration and your glycogen starts breaking down. So, to get the maximum benefit out of sprinting, you have to aim to reach a stage where you are no longer being able to breathe.
- Because this process releases more lactic acid in your body, it makes your muscles fatigued and sore. So don’t do this for a long time to avoid exhausting yourself and causing injury.
And Burns It Faster
Sprinting helps you lose fat at a faster rate with less training time compared with jogging. Studies say, people who engage in high-intensity interval anaerobic programs—which involves a high-intensity exercise followed by a low-intensity one—can lose more fat in 20 minutes (three days a week) than those opting for 40 minutes of aerobic exercise a day.4
If lack of time is stopping you from losing kilos or inches, high-intensity sprinting, and more specifically, sprint interval training (SIT), rather than jogging, will be your best bet.
Aids Muscle Growth
When we say weight loss, it does not mean muscle loss. High-intensity workouts like sprinting in fact help you build lean (fatless) muscle mass and develop active muscles.5
A study found that people participating in regular aerobic exercise showed little or no gain in muscle mass, whereas people who did hard resistance exercise over months showed a significant increase in muscle mass. Also, an anaerobic exercise like sprinting makes your body release more growth hormone, which is essential for burning fat, restoring tissue, and building muscles.6
When you are sprinting, the muscles in your front thigh (quadriceps), back thigh (hamstring), hips (glutes and iliopsoas), and calves undergo a continuous cycle of rapid contractions. This puts the tissues under repeated stress and causes trauma. This trauma, in turn, activates the body’s muscle-repair system, and this makes the muscles grow larger.
These same muscles are involved while you are jogging too, but the effect may not be as pronounced. Of course, the amount of muscle development is also influenced by other factors such as your age and sex.
Sprinting Fights The Effects Of The Stress Hormone Better
When you are under stress, your body releases the hormone cortisol. You could say the level of cortisol in your body is an indicator of your degree of stress. Your cortisol levels remain high during or immediately after any exercise, especially during high-intensity ones.7 This would indicate that jogging is better than sprinting because it produces less cortisol.
But even though intense training like sprinting elevates cortisol levels, it also increases the production of hormones like the growth hormone and testosterone that counter the negative effects of cortisol, namely muscle breakdown and fat storage.8 9 This is because sprinting increases the testosterone/cortisol ratio, which means that the body-building effect of testosterone is more pronounced than the muscle-wasting effect of cortisol.10
And It Releases Happiness Hormones Faster
A high-intensity anaerobic exercise such as sprinting makes your body release endorphins, often called happiness hormones, which elevate your mood and give you a sense of relaxation. Jogging releases these too, but it takes longer to produce this effect.11 12 That’s because the changes in the level of hormones in the blood depend more on the intensity of the exercise than on its duration.13 Now you know why doctors prescribe running for patients suffering from anxiety and depression.
Remember: Anxiety and depression may also make you feel chronically tired. In such cases, don’t overexert right at the beginning. Start with jogging and gradually transition to sprinting.
Any exercise, done properly, would improve your metabolism. The question is: how fast? A high-intensity workout for even 3 minutes works well on your metabolism. And such intense sessions every two days can lower your risk of diabetes by making your body more sensitive to insulin and by clearing glucose from the blood faster.14 Moreover, sprint interval training increases fat burning even when your body is at rest and burns carbohydrates when the body is fasting. It even lowers the blood pressure on the arteries.15 In this aspect, sprinting is a clear winner.
Sprinting Or Jogging: Which Should You Choose?
Now that you know sprinting is more beneficial of the two, you should be aware that sprinting is not advised for everyone. If you have an existing heart condition, high blood pressure, or respiratory problems, sprinting can lead to further damage. In such cases, it is always better to consult a healthcare professional before taking up any strenuous activity such as sprinting or jogging.
While high-intensity sprints are beneficial now, in the longer run, they could increase your chances of osteoarthritis16 or other bone-damaging conditions, especially if you are a woman, because your hormones already make you vulnerable to osteoporosis. The trick is to get the proper nutrition that would keep your bone density from being depleted.
You shouldn’t sprint more than three days a week. This is a high-impact exercise and your body has to sustain a lot of force. Your muscles need rest and time to repair. However, there’s no such restriction for jogging. You can break into a jog anytime, anywhere.
|↑1||A. H. Laursen, O. P. Kristiansen, J. L. Marott, P. Schnohr, E. Prescott. Intensity versus duration of physical activity: implications for the metabolic syndrome. A prospective cohort study. BMJ Open, 2012; 2 (5): e001711|
|↑2||Rakobowchuk, Mark, Sophie Tanguay, Kirsten A. Burgomaster, Krista R. Howarth, Martin J. Gibala, and Maureen J. MacDonald. “Sprint interval and traditional endurance training induce similar improvements in peripheral arterial stiffness and flow-mediated dilation in healthy humans.” American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 295, no. 1 (2008): R236-R242.|
|↑3||Covert Bailey. Smart exercise: burning fat, getting fit. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1995, pp. 54–55.|
|↑4||Boutcher, Stephen H. High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss. Journal of obesity 2011 (2010).|
|↑5||Littman Jonathan. “Try Upping The Tempo With A Little Speed Conditioning”. Best Life 4, no. 3 (April 2007): 97.|
|↑6||Heydari, Mehrdad, Judith Freund, and Stephen H. Boutcher. The Effect of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise on Body Composition of Overweight Young Males Journal of obesity 2012 (2012).|
|↑7||Hill, E. E., E. Zack, C. Battaglini, M. Viru, A. Viru, and Anthony C. Hackney.Exercise and circulating cortisol levels: the intensity threshold effect.. Journal of endocrinological investigation 31, no. 7 (2008): 587-591.|
|↑8||SCHTEINGART, DAVID E. “Suppression of Cortisol Secretion by Human Growth Hormone*.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 50, no. 4 (1980): 721-725.|
|↑9||Brownlee, Kaye K., Alex W. Moore, and Anthony C. Hackney. “Relationship between circulating cortisol and testosterone: influence of physical exercise.” J Sports Sci Med 4, no. 1 (2005): 76-83.|
|↑10||Meckel, Yoav, Alon Eliakim, Mariana Seraev, Frank Zaldivar, Dan M. Cooper, Michael Sagiv, and Dan Nemet. “The effect of a brief sprint interval exercise on growth factors and inflammatory mediators.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 23, no. 1 (2009): 225-230.|
|↑11, ↑12||Schwarz, Lothar, and Wilfried Kindermann. “Changes in β-endorphin levels in response to aerobic and anaerobic exercise.” Sports Medicine 13, no. 1 (1992): 25-36.|
|↑13||Kuoppasalmi, K., H. Näveri, M. Härkönen, and H. Adlercreutz. “Plasma cortisol, androstenedione, testosterone and luteinizing hormone in running exercise of different intensities.” Scandinavian journal of clinical and laboratory investigation 40, no. 5 (1980): 403-409.|
|↑14||Babraj, John A., Niels BJ Vollaard, Cameron Keast, Fergus M. Guppy, Greg Cottrell, and James A. Timmons. “Extremely short duration high intensity interval training substantially improves insulin action in young healthy males.” BMC endocrine disorders 9, no. 1 (2009): 3.|
|↑15||Pool, A. J., and J. S. Axford. “The effects of exercise on the hormonal and immune systems in rheumatoid arthritis.” Rheumatology 40, no. 6 (2001): 610-614.|
|↑16||Griffin, Timothy M., and Farshid Guilak. “The role of mechanical loading in the onset and progression of osteoarthritis.” Exercise and sport sciences reviews 33, no. 4 (2005): 195-200.|