The Best Sprints for Cardio Exercise

Sprinting is a great way to burn calories.
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Pressed for time when it comes to your workout? Don't worry — if you opt to do sprints for exercise, you can reap the same benefits you would if you did a longer workout at a much lower intensity. In some cases, these high-intensity workouts can be even better for you.


If that sounds appealing, you can tailor your sprint workouts to be the right fit for you and your fitness level. Here are some tips you should keep in mind.

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What to Know About Sprints

As the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) explains, the idea of sprinting is relative to each athlete. It's not necessarily about any specific speed. What would be considered sprinting for an amateur runner would be much different from what would be considered sprinting for an Olympic athlete. One person's sprint speed might be 10 miles per hour whereas another person's might be 7 miles per hour.

Read more: A 20-Minute Treadmill Workout You Can Do When It's Too Cold Outside

Instead, when you sprint, focus on going as fast as you can to get your heart rate up. With a sprint workout, you don't have to push yourself to the max for very long. These short bursts of high-intensity exercise can build cardiovascular fitness, improve your athletic performance and help burn fat while maintaining your muscle mass, per ISSA and the American Council on Exercise (ACE).


Specifically, ACE recommends aiming to reach between 80 to 95 percent of your estimated maximum heart rate for anywhere from 10 seconds to three minutes. To figure out your maximum heart rate, use this formula:

220 – Your Age = Maximum Heart Rate in Beats per Minute

For example, if you are 25 years old, your maximum heart rate would be 195 beats per minute. To reach 90 percent of that, you would aim for about 175 or 176 beats per minute.



Invest in a heart rate monitor to determine whether you are reaching 80 to 95 percent of your maximum heart rate when you sprint.

Read more: 3 HIIT Running Workouts to Build Speed and Endurance

Ideas for Sprint Workouts

If it sounds like a sprint is the cardio option for you, then aim to create a program that intersperses sprints with short periods of less intense jogging or walking (called an active recovery period).



The Mayo Clinic recommends starting with a three-minute warmup, followed by 4 to 6 repetitions of 30-second sprints and 60-second active recovery periods. Conclude this with a three-minute cooldown. The frequency and intensity of this plan will depend on your abilities.

But if you're looking for specific sprint workouts you can try before you start planning your own, you might check out these routines adapted from workouts provided by ISSA:


Beginner Sprint:

  1. Warm up by walking for two minutes.
  2. Run at half your full speed for 30 seconds. (If 12 miles per hour is the fastest you can go, run at 6 miles per hour here.)
  3. Walk for two minutes.
  4. Sprint at 70 percent of your full speed for 30 seconds. (If 12 miles per hour is the fastest you can go, run at 8.4 miles per hour here.)
  5. Walk for two minutes.
  6. Sprint at 80 to 90 percent of your full speed for 30 seconds. (If 12 miles per hour is the fastest you can go, run approximately 9.5 to 11 miles per hour here.)
  7. Walk for two minutes.
  8. Repeat two to three times or for a total of 20 minutes.


Intermediate Sprint:

  1. Run for one minute at 50 percent of your full speed.
  2. Walk for two minutes.
  3. Run for one minute at 75 percent of your full speed.
  4. Walk for two minutes.
  5. Run for one minute at 80 to 90 percent of your full speed.
  6. Walk for two minutes.
  7. Run as fast as you can for one minute.
  8. Walk for two minutes.
  9. Run at full speed for one minute.
  10. Walk for two minutes.



  1. Find an uphill distance approximately 25 yards long (the length of a swimming pool). The exact distance and incline can depend on your fitness level and comfort.
  2. Warm up for two minutes by walking up and down the hill.
  3. Sprint up the hill as fast as you can.
  4. Without stopping to rest, jog back down at a moderate pace.
  5. Repeat for 20 minutes. Aim to minimize rests between sprints.

As the Mayo Clinic notes, doing sprints for exercise is safe and effective for people with heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and these types of workouts can improve your cardiovascular system and your metabolic parameters. However, always check with your doctor before beginning this type of intense exercise program.




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