A study conducted by researchers at the Duke University Medical center has shown that the rate of metabolic syndrome (MetS) linked to developing heart disease, diabetes and stroke can be reduced with moderate exercise.
About a quarter of all American adults have MetS, a cluster of risk factors associated with greater likelihood of developing heart disease, diabetes and stroke that includes large waist circumference, high blood pressure, high levels of triglycerides, low amounts of HDL, or "good" cholesterol, and high blood sugar.
The patients must have at least three of these five risk factors.
Johanna Johnson, a clinical researcher at Duke Medical Center and the lead author of a new study revealed that by walking just 30 minutes a day, six days a week, a person can lower the risk of MetS.
"That's about 11 miles per week. And our study shows that you'll benefit even if you don't make any dietary changes," said Johnson
Duke cardiologist William Kraus believes that no exercise can be disastrous.
"Some exercise is better than none; more exercise is generally better than less, and no exercise can be disastrous," he said.
The researchers examined the effects of varying amounts and intensity of exercise on 171 middle-aged, overweight men and women.
The findings revealed 41 percent of the participants met the criteria for MetS. At the end of the 8-month exercise program, only 27 percent did.
"That's a significant decline in prevalence. It's also encouraging news for sedentary, middle-aged adults who want to improve their health said Johnson.
"It means they don't have to go out running four or five days a week; they can get significant health benefits by simply walking around the neighbourhood after dinner every night," Johnson added.
The researchers found those who exercised the least and walked about 11 miles per week, gained significant benefit, while those who exercised the most, jogging about 17 miles per week, gained slightly more benefit in terms of lowered MetS scores.
However, those who did a short period of very vigorous exercise didn't improve their MetS scores as much as those who performed less intense exercise a longer period.
Kraus believes there may be more value in doing moderate intensity exercise every day rather than more intense activity just a few days a week.
The results have shown that waistlines got smaller over the 8-month period and men who exercised saw greater improvement in their MetS risk factors than women.
The study is published in December 15 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology.