Lack Of Exercise In Childhood Leads To Metabolic Syndrome

A new study, conducted by researchers at the University of Northern Carolina and published in the journal Dynamic Medicine, has found that young adults with metabolic syndrome are much more likely to have had been physically inactive and had poor aerobic fitness levels as children.

The data from the study came from children aged 7-10 years who were part of the Cardiovascular Health in Children and Youth Study, a follow up of the participants was conducted 7 years later when the individuals were aged between 14 and 17 years. The children’s physical activity, aerobic fitness, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, and blood lipid levels were measured.

Of the 389 children in the study, 18 had developed metabolic syndrome by the follow-up period. After controlling for other variables, those with metabolic syndrome were more than 6 times more likely to have low aerobic fitness levels and 5 times more likely to have low physical activity levels as children compared to those who did not have metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a collection of symptoms that collectively are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. The symptoms are impaired glucose tolerance, high blood pressure. obesity – especially central obesity (high levels of visceral fat), low HDL cholesterol levels and high blood triglyceride levels. If an individual has three or more of these symptoms they are considered to have metabolic syndrome.

It is thought that as many as 25% of American adults have metabolic syndrome and if current health trends continue, this figure could rise to 50% within 30 years. Those with metabolic syndrome have a five-fold increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes and are at twice the risk of coronary heart disease.

Other studies have demonstrated a link between poor aerobic fitness and each of the individual symptoms of metabolic syndrome so it is perhaps not surprising that those who are inactive and/or have poor physical fitness are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome. Inactive individuals are known to have higher LDL and lower HDL cholesterol levels, higher blood pressures, an impaired response to insulin, higher BMI’s, and a greater percentage of body fat.

Furthermore, inactive individuals tend to have increased inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein and fibrinogen which measure the level of inflammation occurring in the body. Chronic inflammation of the arteries leads to a loss of elasticity, the hardening of the arteries, and eventually atherosclerosis which is a strong cardiovascular disease risk factor.

Children are recommended to get at least an hour a day of physical exercise however it is estimated that over half of all children in the United States fall short of this amount.