BMJ Open 2:e001711 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001711
  • Epidemiology
    • Research

Intensity versus duration of physical activity: implications for the metabolic syndrome. A prospective cohort study

  1. Eva Prescott1,2
  1. 1Department of Cardiology, Bispebjerg University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark
  2. 2The Copenhagen City Heart Study, Bispebjerg University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to Dr Eva Prescott; epre0004{at}
  • Received 25 June 2012
  • Accepted 21 August 2012
  • Published 8 October 2012


Objectives To explore the relative importance of leisure time physical activity (LTPA), walking and jogging on risk of developing the metabolic syndrome (MS).

Design A prospective cohort study.

Setting The Copenhagen City Heart Study.

Participants 10 135 men and women aged 21–98 years who attended an initial examination in 1991–1994 and were re-examined after 10 years.

Outcome measures The association of LTPA, jogging, walking speed and walking volume with MS at baseline and at 10-year follow-up was investigated by multiple logistic regression analyses.

Results Baseline prevalence of MS was 20.7% in women and 27.3% in men. In both women and men, MS prevalence was associated with lower LTPA and walking speed and was lower in joggers compared to non-joggers. In subjects free of MS at baseline, 15.4% had developed MS at 10-year follow-up. Risk of developing MS was reduced in subjects with moderate or high LTPA, higher walking speed and in joggers whereas a higher volume of walking was not associated with reduced risk. After multiple adjustment, odds ratio (OR) of developing MS in moderate/high LTPA was 0.71 (95% CI 0.50 to 1.01), fast walking speed 0.51 (0.33 to 0.80) and joggers 0.60 (0.37 to 0.95) and walking >1 h daily 1.22 (0.91 to 1.65).

Conclusions Our results confirm the role of physical activity in reducing MS risk and suggest that intensity more than volume of physical activity is important.

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