Tag Archives: High Intensity Interval Training

New Evidence on the Benefits of Sprinting for Long-Term Health and Fitness

ResearchBlogging.orgBenefits Sprinting and Jumping: New Evidence

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.

Sprinting and Jumping help you stay strong so you can beat up young people.
Sprinting and Jumping help you stay strong so you can beat up young people.

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:

  1. Short Distance (400 meters, triple jump and/or long jump
  2. Middle Distance (800 meters to to 1500 meters
  3. 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:

  1. Bone Mineral Density
  2. Lean Body Mass Evaluation
  3. Grip Strength (this is a marker of general strength and a predictor of strength in old age).
  4. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Takeaway:

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

CrossFit Training: High Intensity Interval Training.

CrossFit Training is much like High Intensity Interval Training (HIT).  High Intensity Interval Training is also called Sprint Interval Training (SIT). These training methods involve short bursts of activity. These are hot research topics, and hopefully the information gained will give us better insight into training for health and CrossFit WOD performance. A recent paper on triathletes found large improvements in endurance after only two weeks. Training consisted of ten six-second sprints. Two times a week. Athletes also continued their normal patterns of activity. A control group did not do sprints. Both groups did a timed 10K run.  And a “time to exhaustion” test on a stationary bicycle.

Young CrossFit Kid does CrossFit with cycling
CrossFit sometimes including cycling. Father and Son CrossFit WOD

High Intensity Interval Training for CrossFit? Two weeks of very short burst sprints show big improvements in time

The group that trained with very brief sprints improved their 10K time by 10%. Time to exhaustion did not change. Most interestingly blood lactate did not accumulate as fast in HIT-trained athletes.   Accumulation of blood lactate is one of the things that make you feel crappy when you workout.  Feeling crappy later than sooner is better.  Usually.  Maybe you will get through a WOD without feeling like your body is screaming at all.

Extremely short high intensity interval training also improves function in other ways.  For example, it also seems to improve insulin sensitivity.

What does High Intensity Interval Training mean for CrossFit.

What does this mean for CrossFit?   CrossFit naturally includes a lot of high intensity interval training.  Including sprints in your WODs may be a very good idea. Especially if you are not a great runner.   If you are doing a 400m or longer run try doing some very short bursts. It might end up improving your WOD time if you do a WOD with running.  Every repetition counts.  And every second saved lets you do another rep.

Jakeman J, Adamson S, & Babraj J (2012). Extremely short duration high-intensity training substantially improves endurance performance in triathletes. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism = Physiologie appliquee, nutrition et metabolisme, 37 (5), 976-81 PMID: 22857018

Jakeman J, Adamson S, & Babraj J (2012). Extremely short duration high-intensity training substantially improves endurance performance in triathletes. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism = Physiologie appliquee, nutrition et metabolisme, 37 (5), 976-81 PMID: 22857018

Babraj JA, Vollaard NB, Keast C, Guppy FM, Cottrell G, & Timmons JA (2009). Extremely short duration high intensity interval training substantially improves insulin action in young healthy males. BMC endocrine disorders, 9 PMID: 19175906

Getting Faster with High Intensity Interval Training.

High Intensity Interval Training is also called Sprint Interval Training. These training methods involve short, intense bursts of activity. These are hot research topics at present. A recent paper on trained triathletes found large improvements in endurance following a two weeks of sprint training.

Exercise and Weight: crossfit women manage both
High Intensity Interval Training and CrossFit

The training consisted of ten six-second sprints. Two times a week. The athletes also continued their normal patterns of activity. A control group did not do the sprints. Both groups did a timed 10K run and a “time to exhaustion” test on a stationary bicycle. Two weeks of very short burst sprints shows big improvement. The group that trained with very brief sprints improved their 10K time by 10%. Time to exhaustion did not change.

Most interestingly blood lactate did not accumulate as fast in HIT-trained athletes. Accumulation of blood lactate is one of the things that make you feel crappy when you are pushing yourself. Feeling crappy later than sooner is better. Usually. Maybe you will get through a WOD without feeling like your body is screaming at all.

Extremely short high intensity interval training also improves function in other ways. For example, it also improves insulin sensitivity.  So there may be some long term benefit too.

What does High Intensity Interval Training mean for CrossFit?

What does this mean for CrossFit? CrossFit naturally includes a lot of high intensity interval training. Including sprints in your WODs may be a very good idea. Especially if you are not a great runner. If you are doing a 400m or longer run try doing some very short bursts. It might end up improving your WOD time if you do a WOD with running. Every repetition counts. And every second saved lets you do another rep. Babraj JA, Vollaard NB, Keast C, Guppy FM, Cottrell G, & Timmons JA (2009). Extremely short duration high intensity interval training substantially improves insulin action in young healthy males. BMC endocrine disorders, 9 PMID: 19175906

Crossfit High Intensity Interval Workouts

Crossfit – High Intensity Interval Training workouts.

crossfit men discuss womens resistence training
Two ugly crossfit men talk about crossfit, high intensity interval training workouts and WODMASTERS WORKOUT SHIRTS.  Why aren’t they weraing them now?  Get to the shop guys.

Endurance exercise is recommended for cardiovascular health.  Years of research have found that about 30 minutes of cardio will reduce risk of stroke and heart attack.  It will also improve insulin sensitivity, reduce risk of diabetes and improve memory and brain function.  Until very recently, there has been little research on the benefits of CrossFit type exercise on health.  These studies focus on High Intensity Interval Training.  High Intensity Interval Training workouts consist of multiple sets of intense exercise that last 1-4 minutes.  These are spaced with short rest periods.  Or periods of light exercise.

High Intensity Interval Training Workouts with gas mark.
There are so many ways to make life harder. High Intensity Interval Training Workouts can make you hurt faster

Research on this approach to exercise indicates that this approach may number of ways.  These include cardio and respiratory fitness.  And also insulin sensitivity and arterial stiffness.  Arterial stiffness is an indicator for risk of cardiovascular disease.  It is also looking like High Intensity Interval Training may be better at controlling or preventing high blood pressure than the traditional 30 minutes of sustained cardio.

CrossFit Training vs. Running?

The question of is CrossFit better than running is not known yet.  And CrossFit is different than the types of High Intensity Interval Training being tested.  In a nutshell, CrossFit is a fitness program that involves high intensity exercise.  Many different muscle groups are targeted in a CrossFit workout (also known as a CrossFit WOD.)  Workouts may last 5-20 minutes and involve springs, weight lifting, pull-ups and other bodyweight exercises.  If you are wondering “what is CrossFit” try this link. CrossFit exercises may or may not include periods of rest between sets.  However, there is a lot of shifting of focus.  Intensity may be sustained, but not sustained on the same muscle groups.  This might be better for vascular health.

CrossFit High Intensity Interval Training.

crossfit shirt rhino crossfit masters
Stiff, Inflexible, Invincible WODMasters shirt for the Masters CrossFit Athlete. And for other people who may also be stiff and inflexible.

Short periods of high intensity interval training type exercise improve capillary growth.  This allows for greater blood flow to tissues.  Including muscle.   It is possible that intense exercise impacting multiple muscle groups would be better than exercise that impacts only legs (as in running). This is an exciting area of research.  It will be interesting to see what comes up next.  Hopefully more research will be done soon that will look at whether or not CrossFit or High Intensity Interval Training does as well with brain health and control of diabetes.  For a look at recent papers take a look at:

Cocks, M., Shaw, C., Shepherd, S., Fisher, J., Ranasinghe, A., Barker, T., Tipton, K., & Wagenmakers, A. (2012). Sprint interval and endurance training are equally effective in increasing muscle microvascular density and eNOS content in sedentary males The Journal of Physiology, 591 (3), 641-656 DOI: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.239566

Spence AL, Carter HH, Naylor LH, & Green D (2013). A prospective randomised longitudinal study involving 6-months of endurance or resistance exercise on conduit artery adaptation in humans. The Journal of physiology PMID: 23247114

CrossFit vs Running: Is CrossFit as good for cardiovascular health as running?

CrossFit vs Running: evidence from High Intensity Interval Training.

For Crossfit Womens Shirt by WODMasters
For Crossfit Womens Shirt by WODMasters: Mona Lisa and Her Kettlebells. By us. Not by Crossfit the brand. Don’t be confused.

Endurance exercise is recommended for cardiovascular health.  High Intensity Interval Training (like CrossFit) shows promising results.  Years of research have found that about 30 minutes of cardio will reduce risk of stroke and heart attack.  It will also improve insulin sensitivity, reduce risk of diabetes and improve memory and brain function.  Until very recently, there has been little research on the benefits of CrossFit type exercise on health.  These studies focus on High Intensity Interval Training.  High Intensity Interval Training consists of multiple sets of intense exercise that last 1-4 minutes.  These are spaced with short rest periods.  Or periods of light exercise.  Research on this approach to exercise indicates that this approach may be better than running (or other sustained types of cardio) in a number of ways.  These include cardio and respiratory fitness.  And also insulin sensitivity and arterial stiffness.  Arterial stiffness is an indicator for risk of cardiovascular disease.  It is also looking like High Intensity Interval Training may be better at controlling or preventing high blood pressure than the traditional 30 minutes of sustained cardio.

Is CrossFit better than running?

The question of is CrossFit better than running is not known yet.  And CrossFit is different than the types of High Intensity Interval Training being tested.  In a nutshell, CrossFit is a fitness program that involves high intensity exercise.  Many different muscle groups are targeted in a CrossFit workout (also known as a CrossFit WOD.)  Workouts may last 5-20 minutes and involve springs, weight lifting, pull-ups and other bodyweight exercises.  If you are wondering “what is CrossFit” try this link. CrossFit exercises may or may not include periods of rest between sets.  However, there is a lot of shifting of focus.  Intensity may be sustained, but not sustained on the same muscle groups.  This might be better for vascular health.

CrossFit vs Running: More research needed

Short periods of high intensity exercise improve capillary growth.  This allows for greater blood flow to tissues.  Including muscle.   It is possible that intense exercise impacting multiple muscle groups would be better than exercise that impacts only legs (as in running). This is an exciting area of research.  It will be interesting to see what comes up next.  Hopefully more research will be done soon that will look at whether or not CrossFit or High Intensity Interval Training does as well with brain health and control of diabetes.  For a look at recent papers take a look at:

Cocks, M., Shaw, C., Shepherd, S., Fisher, J., Ranasinghe, A., Barker, T., Tipton, K., & Wagenmakers, A. (2012). Sprint interval and endurance training are equally effective in increasing muscle microvascular density and eNOS content in sedentary males The Journal of Physiology, 591 (3), 641-656 DOI: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.239566

Spence AL, Carter HH, Naylor LH, & Green D (2013). A prospective randomised longitudinal study involving 6-months of endurance or resistance exercise on conduit artery adaptation in humans. The Journal of physiology PMID: 23247114