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The Longitudinal Effects of Physical Activity History on Metabolic Syndrome


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: August 2008 - Volume 40 - Issue 8 - p 1424-1431
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318172ced4
BASIC SCIENCES: Epidemiology

Purpose: To examine the relationship of physical activity and its changes over a 9-yr follow-up to the prevalence of metabolic syndrome (MetS) in 2060 young adults (24-39 yr) enrolled in the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study.

Methods: Leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) was assessed using a self-report questionnaire completed in connection with a medical examination at two consecutive measurements in 1992 and 2001. By summing the LTPA items, a physical activity index (PAI) was formed for both measurement points according to which the participants were divided into tracking groups: persistently active, increasingly active, decreasingly active, and persistently inactive. MetS in 2001 was defined by the guidelines of the European Group for the Study of Insulin Resistance (EGIR), the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEP-ATP III), and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). A continuous metabolic risk score was also calculated by summing the z-scores for the metabolic risk factors.

Results: There was a significant linear relationship between MetS and LTPA at baseline in men and at follow-up in both sexes according to all three definitions. Persistent physical activity during 9 yr was associated with a lower prevalence of MetS than persistent physical inactivity on all definitions (all P < 0.05). Similar results were found for increasingly active women (all P < 0.05). All of theseassociations remained significant after adjustment for potential confounders. In both men and women, the 9-yr change in LTPA was related to the metabolic risk score after adjustments for baseline LTPA, age, smoking, and education.

Conclusions: A physically active lifestyle across the lifespan may prevent or delay the onset of metabolic syndrome in young male and female adults.

1LIKES Research Center for Sport and Health Sciences, Jyväskylä, FINLAND; 2Department of Sport Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, FINLAND; and 3Research Center of Applied and Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Turku, FINLAND; 4Department of Medicine, University of Turku, FINLAND; and 5Department of Clinical Physiology, University of Turku, FINLAND

Address for correspondence: Xiaolin Yang, Ph.D., LIKES Research Center for Sport and Health Sciences, Yliopistonkatu 20, 40100 Jyväskylä, Finland; E-mail:

Submitted for publication October 2007.

Accepted for publication March 2008.

©2008The American College of Sports Medicine