Recent research may hold hope for those individuals at risk for developing a condition known as metabolic syndrome. This condition occurs when an individual possesses three or more risk factors which combined, increase their risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) and other diseases including diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome is known by several names including insulin resistance syndrome, obesity syndrome and syndrome X just to name a few. Regardless of what you call it, the condition affects some 35 percent of adults living in the United States.
Are you at risk for metabolic syndrome? If you’re unsure, the good news is that its relatively easy to determine your risk for developing the condition, especially if you’ve had recent blood work performed.
The well-documented risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome are:
- Systolic blood pressure of 130 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or greater.
- Diastolic blood pressure of 85 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or greater.
- HDL cholesterol of less than 40 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) in men or less than 50 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) in woman.
- Triglycerides level of 150 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dl) or greater.
- Fasting glucose of 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) or greater.
- Abdominal obesity. Defined as a waist larger than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for woman.
If you have three or more of the risk factors outlined above or take medication for these conditions then you either have metabolic syndrome or are at risk for developing it. As you reviewed the list above, you might have wondered why smoking or high cholesterol were not mentioned. Certainly these are risk factors for heart disease; however, they are not considered part of metabolic syndrome.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a person who has metabolic syndrome is twice as likely to develop heart disease and five times as likely to develop diabetes as someone who doesn’t have the associated risk factors.
By all accounts, every effort should be made to control the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome. Number one among them could be reducing your waist line as there is a correlation between obesity, insulin resistance and many of the other risk factors.
150 Minutes of Exercise
Physical Activity Recommendations from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) encourage adults to engage in at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per week. HHS further recommends that the activity be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes spread throughout the week.
Several studies have been conducted which affirm the importance of exercise volume (e.g., 150 minutes per week), however less data exists which validates the frequency of when this exercise should be performed. These earlier studies also did not examine the impact of exercise on a person’s odds of having metabolic syndrome.
The researchers at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada set out to determine if a correlation existed between exercise and someone’s risk of having metabolic syndrome. In addition, they wanted to test the current recommendations regarding exercise frequency (e.g., at least 10 minute episodes spread throughout the week).
“Few studies have evaluated the daily frequency of MVPA participation throughout the week and its relationship with health,” wrote Ian Janssen, lead researcher. “The primary objective of the present study was, therefore to examine the association between the frequency of physical activity throughout the week, and the metabolic syndrome (MetS) in physically active men and women.”
The study included 2,324 Canadian adults aged 18-64 years of age. Study participants were asked to wear an accelerometer for seven days, during which time the device captured physical activity and energy expenditure.
To assess the effect of MVPA, participants were divided into three groups based upon their recorded activity levels. The three groups were categorized as inactive, somewhat active and active. To determine the impact of exercise frequency, the active group was further subdivided into infrequently active and frequently active.
The odds of having metabolic syndrome was 4.43 times higher in physically inactive participants versus active participants. Within the active subgroup, the odds of having metabolic syndrome was 1.73 times higher in the infrequently active group versus the frequently active group who exercised 5 or more times per week. The researchers concluded that while the odds of having metabolic syndrome was slightly higher in the infrequently active group it was not definitive enough to conclude that frequency was an important factor. Given that the odds were slightly higher however, additional studies may be necessary.
“The findings indicate that it does not matter how adults choose to accumulate their 150 weekly minutes of physical activity,” Dr. Janssen said in a statement. “For instance, someone who did not perform any physical activity on Monday to Friday but was active for 150 minutes over the weekend would obtain the same health benefits from their activity as someone who accumulated 150 minutes of activity over the week by doing 20-25 minutes of activity on a daily basis.”
According to Dr. Janssen, the important takeaway from the study is that adults should aim to accumulate at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week. By reaching this magic number, at-risk individuals can reduce their overall odds of developing metabolic syndrome. So, get up, get out and get moving!
Exercising Is The Way
Accumulating 150 minutes of exercise can be relatively easy to accomplish. A recent article published in the American College of Sports Medicine points to data which suggests that individuals can achieve meaningful results by engaging in High-Intensity Circuit Training (HICT) using nothing more than body weight for resistance. HICT leverages some of the proven fat loss benefits of other exercise methods in that it alternates between “work” and “recovery” periods.
HICT is essentially a combination of aerobic and resistance training that can be performed almost anywhere because it doesn’t require equipment or weights. For the most part, all that is needed is a few feet of space, 7-21 minutes and a stable surface, like a chair.