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Jogging protects heart more than walking

Metabolic syndrome less likely in those who often jog or walk fast

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 09 October 2012

Metabolic syndrome is much less likely to occur in people who jog several times a week than in those who walk at slow or medium speeds, even if the walks are long, research has shown. Authors of the prospective cohort study, published today on BMJ Open, say it shows that intensity is more important than volume of exercise in protecting cardiovascular health.

More than 10,000 men and women were recruited into the Copenhagen City Heart Study between 1991 and 1994, when they underwent a detailed physical examination, and reported their levels of leisure time physical activity. They were categorised by ‘volume’ of physical activity, i.e. the number of hours per week spent walking or jogging or doing other physical activity, as well as by intensity, i.e. by speed of walking or jogging.

At baseline, there was a negative association between physical activity levels and prevalence of metabolic syndrome – 10.9% of women and 13.9% of men who were very active had metabolic syndrome, compared with 31% of women and 36.8% of men who were sedentary.

Among participants who had initially been free of metabolic syndrome, the researchers compared the effect of different volumes and intensities of physical activity on the incidence of metabolic syndrome during 10 years’ follow-up.

They found that a higher volume of walking did not reduce people’s risk of developing metabolic syndrome – but higher walking speed, jogging, and more intense physical activity were associated with reduced risk. After adjustment for various factors, the odds ratio of developing metabolic syndrome in people with moderate/high leisure time physical activity was 0.71, fast walking speed 0.51, joggers 0.60 and walking for at least an hour daily 1.22.

The study’s authors said: “We found a decreased risk of developing MS [metabolic syndrome] with higher walking speed, jogging and high levels of LTPA [leisure time physical activity] in both men and women whereas walking volume and light physical activity were not associated with MS development. Our data indicated that the risk of developing MS may be reduced as much as 35–50% in subjects who are more physically active.”

They concluded: “Significantly lower risk of MS was found in the moderately and highly physically active groups compared to their sedentary counterparts whereas light physical activity and even more than 1 hour of walking daily did not confer protection against MS. Participation in regular moderate or vigorous activity such as brisk walking could improve cardiorespiratory fitness and decrease MS risk.”

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