Researchers from Finland have found that middle-aged men who get more than three hours of exercise each week are less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, an illness largely characterized by insulin resistance that often precedes development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Insulin is an essential hormone that clears the blood of glucose (a form of sugar) after a meal and deposits it into cells to use for energy. High blood sugar can increase the risk of complications from diabetes such as heart disease, kidney failure and blindness.
While previous studies have touted exercise's potential to reduce the severity of illness in people already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or heart disease, little evidence exists on whether or not physical activity prevents the metabolic syndrome that precedes these illnesses.
The research team followed a group of 612 healthy men between the ages of 42 and 60 over a 4-year period. All of the men provided information about various lifestyle habits, including how often they exercised on a weekly basis.
At the end of the study period, 107 men were diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. According to the report, these men had at least three of the following: abdominal obesity, elevated blood fats known as triglycerides, low levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar. On average, these men exercised about 60 minutes or less per week.
Men who exercised more than 3 hours per week, on the other hand, were much less likely to develop metabolic syndrome. This group of men decreased their risk of developing the metabolic syndrome by about 50% compared with the men who exercised no more than 60 minutes per week.
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