Protecting your heart from metabolic syndrome is easier than you’d think

It’s a condition that’s captured everyone’s attention the past 10 years because it’s become so common. Roughly, 47 million Americans have it. But it didn’t even formally exist until two decades ago. It’s not technically a disease. But it puts you at risk for a lot of diseases.

Any guesses what I’m talking about?

Metabolic syndrome, of course.

To get diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, you need to have at least three of the following risk factors:

  • Large waist size
  • High triglycerides
  • Low HDL (good) cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar

If you have at least three of these factors, you not only get the metabolic syndrome label slapped on your forehead, you’re officially at a much higher risk for heart disease (diabetes and cancer too).

Scary thought, I know. But protecting yourself from the dangers of metabolic syndrome might be easier than you’d think. It might be as easy as a light walk.

Light exercise lightens disease risk for people with metabolic syndrome

A new study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology shows that exercise (even if it’s light) can counteract the heightened heart disease risk caused by metabolic syndrome.

The study included data from 4,232 people. About 20 percent of the women had metabolic syndrome at the start of the study and 27 percent of the men in the study had it. Twenty years after the study started, researchers followed up with participants to see how they were doing health-wise. Here’s what they found:

People who had metabolic syndrome but also reported exercising at the start of the study had a lower risk for cardiovascular disease. In fact, they had a lower risk of developing and dying from cardiovascular disease, along with other diseases linked to metabolic syndrome. But that’s not the best part…

People with metabolic syndrome were able to lower their disease risk with just light exercise. They didn’t have to take up CrossFit or run triathlons. A simple walk around the neighborhood did the trick too. So, if you have metabolic syndrome, don’t give up hope. Reversing your fortune could be easier than you’d think.

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Turn your disease dial down even more

If you’ve already been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, exercise could be the closest thing to a clean slate. You have the power to turn your disease risk around… starting today.

It’s great that this study found light exercise was effective. But if you’re up for something more vigorous, don’t hold yourself back. In the study, they found that exercise and disease risk were inversely connected, which means the more exercise you do, the lower your disease risk gets.

Try to get 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity. That’s what the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend to keep your heart healthy. And remember, you don’t have to do your exercise all at once. You can break it up into 10-minute segments throughout the day if that’s easier for you.

YouTube is a great resource for 10-minute workout videos to inspire you. I like the videos from Fitness Blender. But there are loads of fitness professionals putting out free content, so take advantage of it and take control of your metabolic syndrome.

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  1. Light physical exercise protects people with metabolic syndrome — MedicalXpress.
  2. Physical activity attenuates cardiovascular risk and mortality in men and women with and without the metabolic syndrome – a 20-year follow-up of a population-based cohort of 60-year-olds — European Journal of Preventative Cardiology.
  3. What Is Metabolic Syndrome? — WebMD.
  4. Best Exercises for Beating Metabolic Syndrome — Verywell Fit.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and