Want a healthier heart? Walk faster, run harder.

To ward off metabolic syndrome (MS), working out longer isn’t the necessarily the best. It’s the intensity of the workout the matters most. MS is a combination of risk factors which include obesity and high blood pressure that increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, a new research in the BMJ Open shows.

Researchers found after gathering people’s baseline fitness habits for ten years that those who reported jogging or walking briskly for 2 to 4 hours a week cut their risk of developing MS by 35 to 50 percent.

High-intensity exercise versus light/moderate exercise has been a longstanding debate. This new study lends credence to the fact that high-intensity exercise is more beneficial in numerous ways.

Cardiologist Eric Topol, M.D., director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and a Men’s Health expert advisor says, “Higher-intensity exercise does have a whole different impact on the body’s physiology. Everything is more pronounced: your heart rate is higher, your blood vessels are more dilated, and you’re revving up your cardiovascular system as you would a car”, Dr. Topol adds.

To see changes in your body, there is a threshold that you need to surpass. It’s likely that high-intensity exercise triggers those changes in lipid and glucose metabolism and blood pressure, lowering the risk factors that trigger MS, says David Maron, M.D., a cardiologist at Vanderbilt University’s medical center.

It is vital to your heart’s health to get your heartrate up to approximately 120 beats per minute (not heavy breathing but breathing heavier than normal) for the recommended 2.5 hours per week. This helps in reducing inflammation in the body which is thought to be a major contributing factor for developing heart disease. Don’t abandon your leisurely walk just yet, it, too, is beneficial!

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