Metabolic Syndrome: How Much Exercise?
Moderate Exercise Can Curb Metabolic Syndrome Symptoms, Study Shows
Dec. 17, 2007 -- You don't have to run a marathon to curb the symptoms of metabolic syndrome (a
condition which makes
heart disease more likely). Moderate exercise will do.
So say Duke University's Johanna Johnson, MS, and colleagues.
"Our motto in this group, after looking at all the data, is that some
exercise is always better than none, and more is better than less," Johnson
tells WebMD. She's a clinical research coordinator at Duke University Medical
Metabolic Syndrome Study
Johnson's team studied 334 adults with metabolic syndrome.
People with metabolic syndrome have at least three of the following risk
- Large waist
- Low levels of HDL
- High levels of triglycerides (a type of blood fat)
- Elevated glucose (blood sugar)
levels after fasting
When the Duke study started,
participants were 40-65 years old, overweight or obese, and physically
inactive. None had a history of heart disease, diabetes, or
high blood pressure.
Exercise and Metabolic Syndrome
The researchers split participants into four groups:
- Low amount of moderate exercise (equivalent to walking about 12 miles per
- Low amount of vigorous exercise (equivalent to jogging about 12 miles per
- High amount of vigorous exercise (equivalent to jogging nearly 20 miles per
- No exercise
Participants in the exercise group didn't plunge into their workouts. They
spent two to three months working up to their assigned exercise level to avoid
After that, they followed their exercise assignment for six months. They
wore heart rate monitors so that the researchers could monitor their
The exercisers had access to a treadmill, elliptical machine, or stationary
bike at a gym. Some people in the moderate exercise group took brisk walks in
Participants were free to tailor their exercise time to their schedules, as
long as they met their weekly exercise goal. For most people in the moderate
exercise group, that worked out to three hours a week spread over four or five
Participants were asked not to diet or change their eating habits during the
Curbing Metabolic Syndrome
Participants who got low amounts
of moderate exercise or high amounts of vigorous exercise made the biggest
strides against metabolic syndrome.
The biggest improvements were seen in those who got a lot of vigorous
exercise. But moderate exercise was sufficient.
"A modest amount of exercise at moderate intensity -- that's just a
brisk walking pace -- and in the absence of dietary change can significantly
decrease your risk of metabolic syndrome," says Johnson.
Low amounts of vigorous exercise didn't curb metabolic syndrome overall. But
it did improve certain risk factors, such as waist size.
Why the difference between low amounts of vigorous exercise and low amounts
of moderate exercise? The reasons aren't clear. But consistency may have
mattered -- Johnson says it took more exercise sessions to meet the assigned
benchmark with moderate effort than with vigorous effort.
As for the people who were assigned to stick to their sedentary lifestyles,
"they got unbelievably worse in those six months," says Johnson.
"So our message is that no matter what, please get up and start
That is, after you check in with your doctor. "We would always recommend
that," says Johnson.
The study appears in The American Journal of Cardiology.