Share this article on:

Targeting the Metabolic Syndrome with Exercise: Evidence from the HERITAGE Family Study


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: October 2003 - Volume 35 - Issue 10 - p 1703-1709
doi: 10.1249/01.MSS.0000089337.73244.9B
BASIC SCIENCES: Original Investigations

KATZMARZYK, P. T., A. S. LEON, J. H. WILMORE, J. S. SKINNER, D. C. RAO, T. RANKINEN, and C. BOUCHARD. Targeting the Metabolic Syndrome with Exercise: Evidence from the HERITAGE Family Study. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 35, No. 10, pp. 1703–1709, 2003.

Purpose To determine the efficacy of exercise training in treating the metabolic syndrome.

Methods The sample included 621 black and white participants from the HERITAGE Family Study, identified as sedentary and apparently healthy (no chronic disease or injury). The metabolic syndrome was defined as having three or more risk factors according to the guidelines of the National Cholesterol Education Program, including elevated waist circumference, blood pressure, triglycerides, blood glucose, and low HDL cholesterol. The presence of the metabolic syndrome and component risk factors were determined before and after 20 wk of supervised aerobic exercise training.

Results The prevalence of the metabolic syndrome was 16.9% in this sample (105/621) of apparently healthy participants. Of the 105 participants with the metabolic syndrome at baseline, 30.5% (32 participants) were no longer classified as having the metabolic syndrome after the exercise training. Among the 32 participants who improved their metabolic profile, 43% decreased triglycerides, 16% improved HDL cholesterol, 38% decreased blood pressure, 9% improved fasting plasma glucose, and 28% decreased their waist circumference. There were no sex or race differences in the efficacy of exercise in treating the metabolic syndrome: 32.7% of men, 28.0% of women, 29.7% of black, and 30.9% of white participants with the metabolic syndrome were no longer classified as having the syndrome after training.

Conclusion Aerobic exercise training in patients with the metabolic syndrome can be useful as a treatment strategy and provides support for a role for physical activity in the prevention of chronic disease.

1School of Physical and Health Education and Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON;

2School of Kinesiology and Leisure Studies, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN;

3Department of Health and Kinesiology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX;

4Division of Kinesiology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN;

5Division of Biostatistics, Departments of Genetics and Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO; and

6Human Genomics Laboratory, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, LA

Address for correspondence: Peter T. Katzmarzyk, School of Physical and Health Education, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON K7L 3N6, Canada; E-mail:

Submitted for publication March 2003.

Accepted for publication June 2003.

©2003The American College of Sports Medicine