Last Updated: 2008-07-07 16:00:55 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Findings from a small study of metabolic syndrome patients suggest that the ability of exercise to reverse the syndrome’s components is directly related to the intensity of training.

In the study, reported in the July 7th rapid access issue of Circulation, aerobic interval training, performed at 90% of the highest measured heart rate (Hfmax), reduced 1.9 syndrome risk factors, while continuous moderate exercise, performed at 70% of Hfmax, reduced just 0.7 (p < 0.05).

"The current study suggests that exercise in general and aerobic interval training in particular is partly or fully able to reverse metabolic syndrome, suggesting that this may be a promising treatment strategy," lead author Arnt Erik Tjonna, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, said in a statement. "Guidelines calling for 30 minutes of exercise of moderate intensity may be too general for this population."

The study involved 32 patients who were randomized to receive equal amounts of aerobic interval training or continuous moderate exercise three times weekly for 16 weeks or to a control group.

In addition to the decrease in metabolic syndrome risk factors, aerobic interval training was associated with a greater increase in maximal oxygen uptake than was continuous moderate exercise. Aerobic interval training was also better in improving endothelial function, insulin signaling, skeletal muscle biogenesis, and excitation-contraction coupling and at reducing blood glucose and adipose tissue lipogenesis.

No significant differences were noted between the exercise regimens in their ability to reduce blood pressure, body weight, and fat.

"Although multicenter prospective studies using exercise with high relative intensity to treat patients with the metabolic syndrome are needed to advance our conclusions, we propose that high-intensity exercise training programs may yield more favorable results than programs with low to moderate intensities," the investigators conclude.

Circulation 2008

Copyright Reuters 2008. Click for Restrictions