Chris Hemsworth came into this week burning up. On Monday, the actor posted a video of himself running fast—then very, very fast—on a treadmill. And the 39-year-old, who starred in 2022’s Spiderhead, had some words on the intense cardio workout.
“Nothing better than some sprint training to start your week,” Hemsworth wrote in the caption, mentioning his fitness app and workout program Centr.
We presume Hemsworth was channeling his inner Usain Bolt to boost his fitness. But given the actor’s Disney+ series Limitless and its focus on lengthening your lifespan, he may also have been chasing a longer life. Because research suggests that running—and sprinting in particular—may improve longevity.
What Makes Sprinting so Good for Longevity?
Some tantalizing scientific evidence suggests adopting a sprint training routine like Hemsworth’s could add years to your life, says Sydney Bueckert, The Edge‘s fitness and nutrition editor.
Lower risk of all-cause mortality
The physical demands of running improve nearly every system in your body. “Running makes your heart stronger, reduces blood pressure, improves performance and VO2 max, strengthens your muscles, increases mitochondrial number and function, helps with blood sugar control, and slows mental decline,” says Bueckert. “Increase the intensity and you’ll get all the same benefits in a shorter amount of time.”
A 2020 study in the journal BMJ found a link between high-intensity interval training (HIIT), including sprints, and lower all-cause mortality when compared to other more moderate workout routines.
Improve cell health
Sprinting has also been connected to telomere length (TL)—an essential marker of health. Telomeres are “nucleoprotein structures that serve as guardians of genome stability by ensuring protection against both cell death and senescence,” according to the National Library of Medicine.
And they shorten as we age. A study published in Current Aging Science found a link between a decrease in TL and diabetes, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. “The research linking TL and exercise is relatively new, but there’s significant evidence that exercise—particularly moderate to vigorous activity like sprinting—helps to preserve TL as we get older,” says Bueckert.
A 2017 report in the International Journal of Sports Medicine compared the TL of high-level master sprinters with non-athletes, and found that the sprinters “had longer TL, lower body fat and BMI, and a better lipid profile than age-matched controls.” That difference in TL could have crucial implications for sprinters’ long-term health.
Boost immune response
“Sprinting boosts your immune system, which means faster and better recovery from workouts, and less chance of getting sick and missing out on future ones,” says Bueckert. A study published in Nitric Oxide found sprinting enhances your immune system by improving your cytokine profile. When released, cytokines play a role in recovery, signaling your immune system to repair tissue, reduce inflammation, and fight off disease.