A daily regime of speed walking or jogging could halve the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to a new study.
Danish researchers found that, while an hour's walk everyday did not appear to make a difference to heart health, a brisk walk appeared to have protective benefits for overall health, leading researchers to suggest that exercise intensity, rather than duration, is what matters in shielding against metabolic syndromes that could increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
The latest study, published in the British Medical Journal, included more than 10,000 people, between the ages of 21 to 98, who were first evaluated between 1991 and 1994 and followed for up to 10 years.
Researchers noted that about 20 percent of women and 27 percent of men had metabolic syndrome, which refers to a combination of factors like high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar levels, abnormal blood fat levels and abdominal obesity, at the beginning of the study.
Researchers at Bispebjerg University Hospital, in Copenhagen found that participants who jogged or who had a higher walking speed had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those who didn't exercise or exercise by walking at a slower pace. Researchers said that at the beginning of the study, participants who were least active were most likely to have metabolic syndrome.
Results from the study showed that nearly one-third of inactive women and and about 37 percent of inactive men had metabolic syndrome, whereas only 10 percent of physically active women and about 14 percent of physically active men had the syndrome.
Researchers said that by the end of the study, about 15 percent of the people who didn't have the syndrome at the start of the study developed metabolic syndrome. The results indicated that the syndrome had developed in about 19 percent of inactive people and in 12 percent of people who were very physically active.
Additionally, researchers said that it was not only the amount of exercise but also the intensity that help lowered the risk of metabolic syndrome. Further analysis showed that while fast walking halved the risk of metabolic syndrome and jogging cut the risk by 40 percent, going for an hour-long walk each day did not make any difference.
"Our results confirm the role of physical activity in reducing [metabolic syndrome] risk and suggest that intensity rather than volume of physical activity is important," researchers concluded.