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Intensive sprints 'good for heart'

Fast sprints can be as effective as longer runs in helping to prevent heart disease, according to new research.

Researchers at the University of the West of Scotland analysed the performance of 57 boys and girls over a period of seven weeks.

The children, who were split into three groups, took part in three exercise sessions each week.

The first group worked at moderate intensity (MOD), with 20 minutes of continuous running within a 20m area at 70% maximum oxygen uptake.

The second high intensity group (HIT) repeated sprints as fast as they could within a 20m area, with 20 to 30 seconds recovery in between, while the third group acted as a control.

The total time spent exercising was 420 minutes for the MOD group and 63 minutes for the HIT group.

Those in the MOD group burned more than four times as many calories but both groups saw improvements in factors that could lead to heart disease.

In the HIT group there were significant improvements in blood pressure, aerobic fitness and body mass index.

In the MOD group, there were significant improvements in aerobic fitness, percentage body fat, body mass index and levels of insulin.

Overall, traditional endurance exercise appeared to have had the greatest effect on heart disease risk over the seven weeks.

The researchers concluded: "These findings demonstrate that brief, intense exercise is a time-efficient means for improving cardiovascular disease risk factors in adolescents.

"Overall, results of the study indicated that the two exercise programmes had distinct cardioprotective effects on adolescent youth."

The results have been published in the American Journal of Human Biology.

Copyright © Press Association 2011

University of the West of Scotland