I began distance running at the age of 12 and have kept with it for decades now. Running at a mellow pace has helped me unwind, de-stress and keep my sanity through turbulent times. Until I started CrossFit about five years ago. While I miss the runners high there are some great benefits to including weights, varied movement and group training. There is plenty of research on the benefits of running and aerobic exercise. Research on the benefits of resistance training and high intensity interval training (which resembles CrossFit in some respects) is showing that these forms of exercise are important. They may, in fact, be more effective and provide greater benefits for long-term health. Here is an outline of some possible benefits or sprinting. Or being a sprinter.
Today’s Study: Benefits of Sprinting (or being a Sprinter) vs. Other Types of Runners
Today’s study was published last year (2013) in the journal Osteoporosis International. Subjects were Experienced Masters Runners between 35 and 90 years of age. Runners were asked to identify their strongest running distance:
- Short Distance (400 meters, triple jump and/or long jump
- Middle Distance (800 meters to to 1500 meters
- Long Distance (2000 meters to marathon)
Information on numbers of years of training, age, gender, age of menarche, and age of menopause (when appropriate) were collected. Subjects then completed a series of tests:
- Bone Mineral Density
- Lean Body Mass Evaluation
- Grip Strength (this is a marker of general strength and a predictor of strength in old age).
- Neuromuscular Function (evaluated by counter movement jumps and hopping)
Findings (aka Results)
Short distance runners and jumpers did better on all measures with the exception of arm bone mineral density. There were no significant differences in arm bone density among the athletes tested. While there are a number of limits to the study the sprinters have better grip strength, higher lean muscle mass, stronger bones, and better neurouscular function than middle or long-distance runners. An unfortunate finding was that all types of athletes experienced a similar rate of decline in strength and coordination with age. Still, it seems better to start high and land in the middle than to start in the middle and face plant during one’s senior years.
Study Limits: More research is needed on the long-term benefits of sprinting
The study has a number of limits. Here they are a few that were apparent to me. There may be more. Take a look at the article. There is a link below.
- It was not clear if people who identified as sprinters, middle distance runners or long distance runners trained for these events or if they preferred them.
- Subjects may have simply had the body and neurological types to be sprinters, jumpers, middle distance or long distance runners and would have showed similar results whether they had been Masters Runners or not. Are there benefits or sprinting? Or benefits from being someone with a sprinters body type? It would also be good to know what differences are seen between runners and jumpers.
This study supports growing evidence that sprinting may provide benefits not found in jogging or long distance running. Check out this 61 year old Masters Athlete racing against a 16 year old soccer star.
Gast U, Belavý DL, Armbrecht G, Kusy K, Lexy H, Rawer R, Rittweger J, Winwood K, Zieliński J, & Felsenberg D (2013). Bone density and neuromuscular function in older competitive athletes depend on running distance. Osteoporosis international : a journal established as result of cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA, 24 (7), 2033-42 PMID: 23242430