Emerging evidence suggests that vigorous physical activity may be associated with higher cardioprotective benefits than moderate physical activity. This study aimed to assess the long-term relationship between the intensity of leisure time physical activity (LTPA) and the risk of developing metabolic syndrome (MS) in a prospective cohort study.The Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra (SUN) Project comprises Spanish university graduates. Participants (n=10,145) initially free of MS were followed for a minimum of 6 years (2008-2014). Analysis was conducted in 2015. Physical activity was assessed though a validated questionnaire. The intensity of each physical activity was measured in METs. The intensity of LTPA was estimated by the ratio between total METs/week and total hours of LTPA/week, obtaining the mean METs/hour of LTPA. MS was defined according to the harmonizing definition. The association between the intensity of LTPA (METs/hour) and MS was assessed with logistic regression models adjusting for potential confounders.Among 10,145 participants initially free of any MS criteria, 412 new MS cases were observed. Vigorous LTPA was associated with a 37% relatively lower risk (AOR=0.63, 95% CI=0.44, 0.89) compared with light LTPA. For a given total energy expenditure, independent of the time spent on it, participants who performed vigorous LTPA exhibited a higher reduction in the risk of MS than those who performed light to moderate LTPA.Vigorous LTPA was significantly associated with lower risk of developing MS after a 6-year follow-up period.