Your Lifestyle Outside the Gym Can Prevent Metabolic Syndrome

The activities you do outside of the gym – cleaning your home and walking – can have a positive impact on your health. Conversely, choosing to watch TV instead can lead to metabolic syndrome.

Because aspects of metabolic syndrome, particularly those that lead to diseases like type 2 diabetes, are present in some of my family members, it’s a topic that is very important to me. I suspect many readers of Breaking Muscle are in a similar situation.

It’s critical to know how to handle metabolic syndrome, particularly when you, your family members, or your clients are dealing with it.

What Is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome isn’t a disease itself. It’s a group of factors or symptoms that can lead to disease. Interestingly, they may not only lead to metabolic diseases, but also to heart disease. We know that high body fat percentage is perhaps the single most critical component contributing to metabolic syndrome. Exercise has a favorable effect on metabolic syndrome, but the bulk of the studies have been centered on moderate or intense exercise.

Many at-risk people may not be able to perform much intense exercise, or may want to do more to help alleviate metabolic syndrome in their own time. In fact, it is difficult for most people to achieve the recommended levels of physical activity by higher intensity exercise alone. A recent study in the Journal of behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity examined lighter activities, an under-researched area in regards to metabolic syndrome.

LEARN MORE: The Effects of Exercise Intensity on Insulin Control

In the study researchers wanted to know what effect basic activities like cleaning your home or walking would have on metabolic syndrome. If lighter activity has an important impact, it can be used to supplement work in the gym to mitigate the chance of disease. Researchers also wanted to find out if not doing these light activities, and instead sitting on your butt in front of the TV, would actually increase your risk factors.

The researchers found that sedentary time was significantly and positively associated with metabolic syndrome, including body fat and problems with lipid (fat) metabolism. Meaning, sedentary behavior was linked to increased body fat and higher incidence of metabolic syndrome. Researchers also found that the amount of time spent in light-intensity activities was significantly and negatively correlated with these same things – meaning lower body fat and lower rate of metabolic syndrome.

What this ultimately means is that, the things we or our clients, friends, and family do or don’t do outside of the gym have a major impact on many of their risk factors for disease. And the big kicker here is that the researchers actually factored out the intense exercise to get these results. So, while we know that the things you do in the gym are helpful for reducing metabolic syndrome, you can still do more, completely irrespective of gym time.

MOVE MORE: Working Out Isn’t Enough: Advice for Desk Workers

Of course, this information applies to everyone, not just people with a history of metabolic disease. It seems that lifestyle activity levels are important for health and need to be discussed between clients and trainers. Understanding the importance of lifestyle activity choices, one thing I’d like to see for future studies is how we can actually increase the likelihood of compliance in making these lifestyle changes.

LEARN MORE: Cardio Is Best Weapon Against Metabolic Syndrome


1. Junghoon Kim, et. al., “Objectively measured light-intensity lifestyle activity and sedentary time are independently associated with metabolic syndrome: a cross-sectional study of Japanese adults,” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2013, 10:30

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