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Obes Rev. 2010 Jul;11(7):492-507. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2009.00680.x. Epub 2009 Nov 5.

The physical activity, stress and metabolic syndrome triangle: a guide to unfamiliar territory for the obesity researcher.

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Department of Kinesiology, Center for Physical Activity and Health, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48823, USA.


Research aimed at deciphering the aetiology of obesity and the metabolic syndrome remains focused on two behavioural factors, namely diet and physical activity, even though epidemiologic research suggests that these two cornerstones of treatment and prevention account for only a small-to-moderate portion of the variance in these phenotypes. In recent years, this observation has prompted the intensified investigation of the pathogenic potential of factors that extend beyond the traditional concept of energy imbalance and examine the putative causes of this imbalance. Psychosocial stress has emerged as one such factor, raising the need for researchers to be informed about this expansive and complex literature. The purpose of this review is twofold (i) To introduce obesity researchers to fundamental concepts and historically important theoretical developments in the stress field and (ii) To outline the dyadic and triadic interactions between stress, physical activity and the metabolic syndrome. Although the expansion of the research focus to multiple, diverse and interacting putative causal agents will certainly increase the complexity of the research enterprise, this step seems essential for the comprehension and effective response to the continuing rise in the prevalence of obesity and the metabolic syndrome.

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