Sprinting, jogging, and running look much the same in action. After all, they are virtually the same movement at varying speeds.
Those varying speeds make a big difference though, in how the body responds to the movement, and which form of exercise is better depends on your health and your workout goals.
Jogging vs Running
Jogging and running are both steady-state cardio exercises that keep your heart rate at about the same level for the duration of the exercise.
There is no definitive speed that distinguishes a “jog” from a “run.” Though, plenty of sites are happy to toss one out. Most of these sites state a speed of 6 mph or a 10-minute mile as “running.”
There’s just one small problem with that number. The average woman in the United States runs a 10:21 mile and the average woman around the world runs a 10:40 mile. So, these “6 mph constitutes a run” sites are basically saying only men run.
And there are plenty of men who can’t run a 10-minute mile.
There is no definitive speed that distinguishes jogging from running because people have different bodies and capabilities.
When we talking about jogging versus running, we’re really talking about your body’s response to the exercise. Running will keep your heart rate at a higher level than jogging.
Jogging is just a slower, lower intensity form of running.
Sprinting is an interval cardio exercise that requires different amounts of energy at different times and causes fluctuations in your heart rate.
Sprints are meant to tap out your body’s physical capabilities. A proper sprint uses 100% of your effort and hits the fastest speed you can go (while still maintaining good form).
Muscles Used in Running, Jogging or Sprinting
The muscles used in running, jogging and sprinting are exactly the same. You use the:
- Hip flexors
- Calf muscles
- Core (abs, obliques)
It’s how these muscles are used that differ between the exercises.
Jogging and endurance running use Type I (or slow-twitch) muscle fibers. These fibers contract at a moderate pace, using moderate amounts of energy, and provide oxygen to the muscles.
Sprinting (and fast running) activates Type II (or fast-twitch) muscle fibers. These fibers contract rapidly, use a lot of energy, and run out of fuel fast.
Sprinting vs Jogging or Running
When you’re talking about sprinting versus jogging or running, you’re really talking about aerobic versus anaerobic exercise and muscle usage.
Aerobic exercise (like jogging or running) uses oxygen to produce energy. Benefits of aerobic jogging or running include:
- Strengthened heart muscles
- Lower blood pressure
- Weight loss
- Increased stamina and endurance
- Stronger immune system
- Better mood
- Longer life expectancy (with reduced risks of heart attack, Type 1 diabetes, and stroke)
Anaerobic exercise (like sprinting) breaks down glucose for energy without the use of oxygen. Benefits of anaerobic sprints include:
- Higher fat burning
- Rapid muscle gain
- Stronger bones
- Muscle maintenance
- Increased stamina
Muscle gains from anaerobic exercise largely come from the quick, explosive nature of the movements. Sprinting creates more muscle tears in more muscle fibers during a workout, which results in more substantial muscle growth.
Is it better to sprint or jog (run) for weight loss?
Sprinting provides more rapid weight loss for three main reasons.
- Sprinting is a higher-intensity workout which burns more calories while you’re doing it.
- Sprinting builds more muscle, and more lean muscle means a higher metabolic rate.
- Sprinting produces more “afterburn.” All forms of exercise result in sustained oxygen consumption for a period after a workout. But higher-intensity exercises produce longer afterburn with higher oxygen consumption.
That said, the exercise you enjoy doing and will stick with is always the best workout. Slow and steady will help you lose weight too.
Is sprinting or jogging (running) easier on your body?
Improper form, bad shoes, and uneven terrain are the main causes of knee, hip, and other joint issues and injuries when doing any form of running.
However, sprinting is a higher-intensity exercise that does have more impact on the joints.
Easing into sprints and properly warming up each time you run are key to avoiding injury.
There are some common issues, though, that can make sprints (and other rapid movements) more difficult and even painful. If you have a prior injury to your back, hips, knees, legs, or ankles, sprinting may be too high-impact.
And some reproductive system issues make sprinting (or even just running) complicated.
Women with endometriosis or uterine fibroids can get bleeding, cramping, nausea, and pain when running or sprinting. Men with testicular torsion may experience swelling, cramping, nausea, and pain.
While it’s not the actual running itself that creates these issues, it can aggravate them to a point that it’s simply not an ideal exercise.
It’s okay for workouts to cause some aches and pains. When it comes to building muscle, that’s how you know it’s working.
But exercise shouldn’t be painful in areas that aren’t being worked. And it does little good if it lays you out for days after.
Are sprints or jogging/running better?
It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with your running.
If you want to build muscle and burn fat, sprints are the exercise for you.
If you just want the health benefits of cardio – like lower blood pressure and better heart health – a jog will get it done.
Ideally, you should incorporate both types of exercise – aerobic endurance running and high-intensity strength running – into your exercise regimen to get both the muscle-building benefits of sprinting and the aerobic and cardio benefits of a slower, longer run.