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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