Sprinting Vs Running: Differences + Benefits Of 2 Distinct Workouts

Both jogging and sprinting can offer huge benefits for physical and mental wellbeing. However, whilst they might appear similar, there are some key differences between lower intensity running and sprinting in terms of how they are carried out as exercises, as well as how they affect your muscles, health, and running capabilities.

In this article, we’ll cover the following:

  • How Do We Define Sprinting Vs Running?
  • How Sprinting Vs Running Affects Your Running Abilities
  • Sprinting Vs Running For Muscle Growth
  • Sprinting Vs Running for Bone Health
  • Summary: Key Differences Between Sprinting Vs Running

Whilst sprinting is a type of running, in this article, when we refer to running, we are referring to low to medium-intensity jogging.

Let’s jump straight in.

Sprinting Vs Running

What Is Sprinting?

Sprinting is a form of anaerobic exercise, often defined as running at 80 to 95% of the maximum heart rate. Sprinting can’t be sustained for a long time and is generally run over less than 200m distances at a time.

Sprinting workouts are practiced as a form of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which involves running fast for a short period of time, between 10 seconds to two minutes, before resting for a short period, and then repeating this process a few times.

A HIIT sprinting workout can last anywhere between 7 minutes to half an hour.

What Is Running?

Low to medium intensity running or jogging can be defined as running at a much slower pace than sprinting, generally around 60% of the maximum heart rate or less.

A low to medium-intensity run can last anywhere between 15 minutes to a few hours (or even days for ultrarunners).

The primary key difference between sprinting and jogging is that sprinting is a quick, high-intensity workout that aims to leave your muscles burning and have you gasping for breath, whereas jogging is a lower intensity and more endurance-based method of working out, where stamina and mental fortitude are key.

This also means that a sprinting workout is a much more time-efficient workout compared to a lower intensity run.

Sprinting Vs Running

How Sprinting Vs Running Affects Your Running Abilities

Runners can benefit from both running and sprinting. However, the different workouts impact your running abilities and strengths in different ways.

Sprinting Vs Jogging For Running Fast

If you’re trying to increase your maximum running speed, then sprinting is most effective. One main reason for this is that distance running doesn’t increase your muscle mass like sprinting, and muscle strength is essential for the propulsion needed to move fast.

It’s worth noting that if your primary goal is running faster, then low intensity running for over 30 minutes can negatively affect your performance.

Sprinting Vs Jogging For Running Far

If you’re aiming to increase how far you can run and how long you can run for, you’ll see the most benefits through regularly practicing long-distance running at a low/medium intensity, as opposed to sprinting. However, incorporating sprinting workouts can improve your speed and run times.

Sprinting Vs Running

Sprinting Vs Running For Beginners

As individuals can start jogging at a slow pace and gradually build up their speed and distance, it is an accessible form of exercise for many who are not used to exercising.

Sprinting, on the other hand, is a much more strenuous form of exercise so it might not be as suitable for those who are just starting out and whose bodies aren’t adjusted to running.

Sprinting Vs Running For Weight Loss

Both running and sprinting are effective means of weight loss.

However, if your aim is just weight loss and you’re looking for the most time-efficient way to do it, then sprinting is for you.

One study found that 2 minutes of sprinting 3 times a week over 6 weeks had the same fat-burning effect as 30 minutes of running 3 times a week over the same period.

Part of the reason for this is that your metabolism remains high and can continue burning fat for a few hours after finishing sprinting, whereas jogging doesn’t have the same impact.

However, it can be hard to sustain sprinting for a long period of time, so if you find it easier running longer distances at a much slower pace it’s still an effective method at burning fat.

In fact, many can sustain a low-intensity jog for hours at a time but sprinting for only a few minutes, meaning that although sprinting is more efficient at fat burning, an extended run might burn more calories overall as you can do it for longer.

Sprinting Vs Running

Sprinting Vs Jogging For Muscle Growth

When comparing physiques, you can see a clear difference between lean long-distance runners such as Kilian Jornet and muscular sprinters such as Usain Bolt.

This is because sprinting increases muscle mass and strength more than jogging, due to the fact that sprinting relies heavily on muscular strength for speed, vs jogging which is more reliant on cardiovascular fitness.

Therefore, you should opt for sprinting if muscle growth is your goal.

In fact, some research suggests that long-distance running on its own can slightly reduce muscle gains by releasing hormones that inhibit muscle growth. Sprinting on the other hand releases human growth hormone, which results in muscle growth, and also offers benefits for bone density and fat loss.

Staying hydrated, maintaining a healthy diet and adequate protein consumption are also essential factors for muscle growth from sprinting.

Sprinting Vs Running

Sprinting Vs Running For Heart And Lung Health (Cardiovascular Fitness)

Both sprinting and lower intensity running have been proven beyond doubt to be beneficial for cardiovascular fitness, with both shown to increase life expectancy. However, although they affect your cardiovascular system in slightly different ways, it’s difficult to state with certainty which is best for cardiovascular health.

Some research suggests that high-intensity exercise such as sprinting is more effective at improving heart strength and VO2max (maximum oxygen consumption per minute – an indicator of cardiovascular health). However, other studies have shown the opposite. Conversely, jogging may be more effective at lowering heart rate.

As sprinting puts more immediate strain and pressure on the heart, if you have a heart condition such as high blood pressure or a cardiovascular disease then jogging is a safer option. This isn’t to say that jogging is without risk, so make sure to check with your doctor that it’s safe before running if you’ve been diagnosed with any cardiovascular issues.

Sprinting Vs Running

Sprinting Vs Running For Bone Health

If practiced regularly, repeated stimulation through both sprinting and jogging works to strengthen bones over time. One study showed that sprinting has greater benefits for the bones in the hips and spine than long-distance running.

Risk Of Injury In Sprinting Vs Jogging

Due to its higher intensity, sprinting has a higher risk of injury, with one study documenting 67% of sprinters as having reported injuries as opposed to 32% of long-distance runners.

Neither form of exercise is without risk of injury, so to minimize the risk it’s important to make sure your form and technique are correct, you’re warming up properly, you’re stretching, and you’re wearing the right shoes.

If you’re new to exercise, jogging can be a useful tool to gradually build up your joint and bone strength before getting into running.

The strengthening effect of sprinting on bone health can also help with injury prevention in long-distance runners. Furthermore, the muscle-strengthening benefits of sprinting can help improve and prevent muscle and joint imbalances, which is a key aspect of knee and ankle injury prevention in long-distance runners.

It’s also important to remember that you’re much more likely to become dehydrated during a long run as opposed to a short sprinting workout, so remember to keep hydrated if you’re opting for a jog over a sprint.

Sprinting Vs Running

The Effects Of Sprinting Vs Jogging On Workout Recovery Period

On one hand, it might seem so far that high-intensity sprint workouts seem to have more benefits, however, it’s worth noting that recovery time is generally 1 to 2 days, whereas recovery from lower intensity jogging can be as short as 4-8 hours.

This is relevant in regard to fat-loss and cardiovascular benefits, as whilst in some areas sprinting offers greater benefits per minute spent exercising, if you’re able to exercise more regularly due to a shorter recovery period, then the overall benefits from jogging might be greater.

Summary: When Should You Sprint Vs Jog

In summary, the key differences between sprinting vs running are as follows:

  • Lower intensity running is an easier starting point for those new to exercise, as opposed to sprinting which requires a higher level of fitness.
  • Sprinting improves muscle mass and strength, whereas distance running does not.
  • Sprinting is a more efficient means of burning fat, but jogging is still effective and highly recommended.
  • Both types of workout are beneficial for cardiovascular health, but if you have a cardiovascular illness then jogging is a safer option.
  • Sprinting has a higher risk of injury.
  • Practicing sprinting is better for increasing your speed, but lower intensity running is more effective at improving stamina.
  • Jogging has a quicker recovery period, therefore it is possible to work out more regularly.
Sprinting Vs Running

Conclusions

Whilst we’ve shown them to be distinct in many ways, both running and sprinting are great for mental wellbeing and have been shown to help alleviate depression, anxiety, and stress, as well as helping with general mood improvement.

Both forms of exercise can help to improve heart and lung health, joint stability and strength, and help to reduce the chance of chronic illness such as heart disease and type two diabetes. The most important thing in regard to health is that you’re doing one or the other, as opposed to no exercise at all.

At the end of the day, whether you choose sprinting, jogging, or both depends on your personal preference and your goals.

If you’re a long-distance runner and you’re looking to improve your performance and better your run times, then incorporating sprinting workouts into your training schedule will be beneficial.

However, if you’re a practicing sprinter and you’re looking to improve your performance, regularly incorporating longer distance runs will not be beneficial as the associated muscle changes negatively impact sprinting abilities.

Not sure where to start? Check out our guides on how to improve your sprinting as well as how to increase your long-distance running abilities.

Sprinting Vs Running

Felix Hewitt

Felix Hewitt

Hailing from Brighton, UK, Felix is a lover of running, cycling, and all things active. When he's not exploring a remote corner of the globe on a bike-packing trip, Felix enjoys meditating, making music, and running as far as his legs will let him!

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