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The Best Sprints for Cardio Exercise

by 
author image George W. Citroner
George Citroner is a medical and health journalist. His work has appeared in over 50 publications and covers a broad range of medical, health, and fitness topics.
The Best Sprints for Cardio Exercise
The Best Sprints for Cardio Exercise Photo Credit: Mike Powell/Stockbyte/GettyImages

Although steady state cardio training sessions lasting upwards of an hour are the most popular way to reap the benefits of aerobic exercise, it isn’t the only way. If long-distance running or biking has gotten tedious, the time it takes is no longer available, or it’s simply a matter of wanting to try something new; sprint training could be the way to go.

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Research published in a 2012 issue of Australian Family Physician concluded that high-intensity training (like sprints) offers significant cardiovascular benefits with a relatively short time commitment.

Consider the following options as some of the best sprints to use for used for cardio training. Always warm up before embarking on a sprint workout. Do light cardio and gentle calisthenics for five to 10 minutes prior to your session.

Read more: Examples of Warm-up and Cool-down Exercises

HIIT Sprints for Cardio

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a training protocol that involves short bursts of all-out effort broken up with brief rest periods. According to a March 2012 study in the Journal of Physiology, HIIT can be a useful alternative to conventional moderate-intensity aerobic training. Often, it offers similar or even better fitness adaptations as compared to steady state cardio.

To perform productive HIIT sprints for cardio sprint with maximum effort for 30 seconds, then rest slowly for 30 to 45 seconds Repeat from eight to 12 times.

HIIT is a time-efficient workout because the high-intensity effort can’t be maintained for very long. Consequently, HIIT sprint interval workouts once or twice a week should provide sufficient cardiovascular training to reap the significant health and conditioning benefits.

Fartlek Sprints

Fartlek running is an old form of sprint training that combines the benefits of steady state cardio and high-intensity training.

Fartlek training involves jogging and sprinting during a run rather than keeping a steady pace. For example, a typical fartlek workout could consist of a one-hour training run, but instead of maintaining the same pace, you alternate a sprinting and jogging pace at random intervals. Customize a Fartlek workout depending on how you feel. If you're tired, reduce the number of sprints performed — spend more time jogging. When you have the energy, break up your joggin9 with 10 to 15 fast-paced sprints.

One way to structure your Fartlek workout is to find a landmark, such as a tree or parked car ahead and run fast to it. Slow down until you reach the next landmark of choice and continue for the desired duration.

Read more: What are the Benefits of Fartlek Training?

Long Duration Sprints

In the same way bodybuilders train to lift heavier weights, sprints can be progressively lengthened for cardio training.

Although a sprint is usually short in duration, you can gradually increase the amount of time they can sprint with all-out effort. Make your sprints last 60 to 90 seconds, and rest twice as long (2 to 3 minutes). Repeat fewer as this is a more intense program.

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