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Metab Syndr Relat Disord. 2010 Aug;8(4):317-22. doi: 10.1089/met.2009.0090.

Walking in old age and development of metabolic syndrome: the health, aging, and body composition study.

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  • 1Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center, Veteran's Affairs Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27705, USA.



The specific health benefits of meeting physical activity guidelines are unclear in older adults. We examined the association between meeting, not meeting, or change in status of meeting physical activity guidelines through walking and the 5-year incidence of metabolic syndrome in older adults.


A total of 1,863 Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study participants aged 70-79 were followed for 5 years (1997-1998 to 2002-2003). Four walking groups were created based on self-report during years 1 and 6: Sustained low (Year 1, <150 min/week, and year 6, <150 min/week), decreased (year 1, >150 min/week, and year 6, <150 min/week), increased (year 1, <150 min/week, and year 6, >150 min/week), and sustained high (year 1, >150 min/week, and year 6, >150 min/week). Based on the Adult Treatment Panel III (ATP III) panel guidelines, the metabolic syndrome criterion was having three of five factors: Large waist circumference, elevated blood pressure, triglycerides, blood glucose, and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels.


Compared to the sustained low group, the sustained high group had a 39% reduction in odds of incident metabolic syndrome [adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 0.61; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.40-0.93], and a significantly lower likelihood of developing the number of metabolic syndrome risk factors that the sustained low group developed over 5 years (beta = -0.16, P = 0.04).


Meeting or exceeding the physical activity guidelines via walking significantly reduced the odds of incident metabolic syndrome and onset of new metabolic syndrome components in older adults. This protective association was found only in individuals who sustained high levels of walking for physical activity.

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