updated 4/24/2012 8:15:40 AM ET 2012-04-24T12:15:40

Women are less likely than men to exercise for at least 30 minutes daily, a new study shows.

On average, women in the study did 18 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise daily, while men did 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise daily, according to the study.

People in the study who did not do at least 30 minutes of exercise daily were at increased risk of metabolic syndrome, which is a collection of symptoms linked with cardiovascular disease, including high blood sugar, high blood pressure and low levels of "good" cholesterol.

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The study involved a nationally representative sample of more than 1,000 U.S. men and women who participated in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey in 2005 and 2006. Participants wore a device called an accelerometer, which keeps track of movement, around their waist for at least four days.

Overall, women in the study had healthier behavior than men, for instance, women were less likely to smoke, but the lack of physical activity still put them at risk for metabolic syndrome, said study researcher Bradley Cardinal, professor of social psychology of physical activity at Oregon State University.

The study did not address why women exercised less than men, the researchers said. However, the researchers said that patterns of activity that begin in childhood typically continue throughout adulthood.

Women also often cite a lack of time to exercise due to child-rearing, said study researcher Paul Loprinzi, also of Oregon State.

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Other work from these researchers shows that adults can enhance their health by accumulating physical activity in short periods throughout the day, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or pacing while talking on the phone.

The study was published in online March 12 in the journal Preventive Medicine.

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© 2012 Discovery Channel

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