What's the best way to exercise to protect the heart? A new study suggests it may matter more how intense the exercise is, not how long you do it.
New research in the journal BMJ Open shows that brisk walking and jogging can help decrease the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, but walking for an hour each day doesn't seem to have any impact on the risk.
Metabolic syndrome is made up of a cluster of factors, including high blood pressure, high blood glucose levels, a large waist circumference, low levels of good cholesterol, and high triglycerides, according to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Metabolic syndrome raises the risk of heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.
The study, conducted by researchers at Bispebjerg University Hospital in Denmark, included 10,135 people ages 21 to 98. All of the study participants were monitored for up to 10 years on their physical activity intensity and duration.
At the beginning of the study, 20.7 percent of the women had metabolic syndrome, and of those women, nearly one in three led a sedentary lifestyle, while one in 10 led a physically active lifestyle.
Meanwhile, for men at the beginning of the study, 27.3 percent had metabolic syndrome. Of those men, 37 percent led a sedentary lifestyle, while 14 percent had led a physically active lifestyle.
By the end of the study period, 15.4 percent of the study participants who didn't start out with metabolic syndrome and who completed the final assessments had developed the condition. Of the people who went on to develop metabolic syndrome, 19.4 percent of them led a sedentary lifestyle, while 11.8 percent led a physically active lifestyle.
Researchers found that study participants who exercised and had a fast walking speed were able to lower their risk of developing metabolic syndrome by half, while those who exercised by jogging were able to lower their risk of the condition by 40 percent.
But the researchers did not find that those who exercised by going for a walk for an hour every day were able to lower their risk of the condition.
The findings suggest "that intensity more than volume of physical activity is important," researchers wrote in the study.
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Grocery shopping? Make an extra tour around the perimeter aisles before checking out.
Use the restroom one floor down (or up) at work instead of heading for the one just down the hall.
Ditto with your coffee.
Hide the remote so you have to actually get up to change the channel. Better yet, turn off the TV.
Park The Car
Instead of fighting other drivers for that single open spot near the door, do your blood pressure a favor and park several rows away.
Don't Just Sit There
Walk <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20355765,00.html" target="_hplink">around the block </a>while your kid is taking dance class/playing soccer/whatever.
Get Off The Bus
Get off the bus or subway one stop early.
Brush Your Teeth
March in place while brushing your teeth (go ahead and shut the door first if you'd like).
Get The Mail
Going to the mailbox? Take a tour around the house first -- then take the time to say hello to that chatty neighbor who flags you down.
Walk To The Store
Hoof it to the store when you're only buying a few easy-to-carry items.
Don't Send That Email
Walk over to your coworker's desk instead of e-mailing her.
Make it a nightly habit to go for an after-dinner stroll with the family.
Early for an appointment? Walk around the block instead of adding to your interminable time in the waiting room.
Take a daily afternoon "brainstorming" walk.
Wander the room while chatting on the phone.
Walk To School
Walk your child to school instead of waiting in the endless carpool line.
Instead of cooping yourself and your coworkers up in a stuffy conference room, make your next meeting a walking one.
Headed to the mall? Stroll the length of it once before you start buying -- and scout the sales while you're at it.
Set An Alarm
Set the alarm on your computer to go off every hour or two, then take a quick tour around the floor (or even just a trip up and down the hall) when it does.
Next time you have to run a couple of errands, park midway between your destinations and walk to them both. In between, pause to leave the dry cleaning in the car before strolling over to pick up your best friend's birthday gift.
Forget The Stilletos
Leave the stilettos in the closet and charm your hubby (or boyfriend) into taking a moonlit walk after dinner at your favorite restaurant.
No More Escalators
Tell yourself that you're allergic to escalators and act accordingly.
Instead of getting together with the girls for a stay-put meal, plan an evening of window-shopping or an afternoon of new-neighborhood scouting.
Take The Scenic Route
Whenever possible (and safe), take the scenic route! <strong>More from Health.com:</strong> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20432121,00.html" target="_hplink">10 Ways to Walk Off Fat Faster</a> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20500418,00.html" target="_hplink">9 Easy Ways to Sneak in More Exercise</a> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20395219,00.html" target="_hplink">20 Ways to Torch 200 Calories</a>