Friday, February 23, 2018

What Is Metabolic Syndrome, Anyway?

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by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner 

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of health issues that increase the risk for heart disease. About 47 million people in the United States have this condition. Find out if you are among them …

Combined with obesity and high cholesterol, the presence of three or more heart disease risk factors are diagnosed as metabolic syndrome.  These include: high blood pressure, blood sugar (while fasting), and triglycerides; low HDL (good cholesterol); and excess abdominal fat.

Obese vs. Overweight

Weight and size can be two different things.
Weight and size can be two different things.

Obesity on its own can trigger numerous health risks. The definition of obesity is often a surprise. The term is incorrectly associated with the extremely overweight, physically limited individual.  Most don’t even recognize themselves, or loved ones, as clinically obese. Obesity is a condition determined by excess body fat, which results in excess body weight. A person can be overweight from extra muscle, bone, or water retention, and not necessarily be diagnosed as obese.

Know your body mass index (BMI), as well as body weight. Waist circumference is another critical number. Belly fat is more harmful than fat accumulated in other areas. For a quick indication, measure your waist. Your waist should remain smaller than your hips. Consider the dangers of a thick middle alone, which include increased risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and types of cancer.

Check with the Center’s Nursing Department for your BMI reading, which is part of the analysis performed. The Center’s Body Composition/Body Fat Analysis reveals the actual composition of a person’s weight (lean mass in pounds versus fat mass in pounds), plus the actual percentage of body fat in relation to age and gender. This allows a more detailed look at the actual composition of those pounds of weight.

The Plan of Attack

Those with metabolic syndrome are five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and twice as likely to develop a heart condition. These statistics are plenty of motivation to rid yourself of risk factors!

Attack the issue from all directions by improving your diet, increasing physical activity, and getting medical intervention as necessary. Regular visits with your physician and the Center nurse allow risk levels to be monitored and compared against a baseline. Treatment plans can safely progress, with careful attention to how treatment is affecting your heart. Those with metabolic syndrome need to be particularly careful when starting a new exercise regimen to avoid overstressing the heart.

Vigilant monitoring improves compliance when adapting a new lifestyle. Discovering you’re at risk for serious health issues is a definite motivator. However, the multiple health issues associated with metabolic syndrome can be overwhelming, which makes it difficult to be steadfast in efforts. The support of Center staff (particularly the nurses, trainers, and fitness instructors) helps create a customized program focused on small steps to achieve ultimate goals.

The Equalizer

Moderate exercise is well established as a method to reduce risk factors involved in metabolic syndrome. Current research indicates more specific findings: Aerobic interval training combats this condition with even more power. Added bonus: Interval training is efficient at blasting calories.

A study performed among moderate exercisers, interval training exercisers, and non-exercisers was performed. The exercise groups both showed improved health. However, those who participated in interval training programs shifted their bodies’ response to insulin, which improved blood sugar levels. Also, good cholesterol (HDL) increased by approximately 25 percent in this group.

Make your workout count! It seems you can reduce health risks and eliminate metabolic syndrome more effectively by incorporating interval training. It’s also a great way to maximize your workout when short on time. Often, you can accomplish the same or better results in less time by adding spurts of intensity to your routine.

How to Interval Train

The basic goal of interval training is to increase your heart rate in one- to four-minute segments throughout your workout. A personal trainer can share insight on how to manage this.

A sample workout might include walking on the treadmill at an incline for 45 minutes, three times weekly. Increase the pace so you are exercising at 90 percent your maximum heart rate for 30 seconds, gradually working your way up to a few minutes. Then, decrease the pace so you are functioning at 70 percent your maximum heart rate for the next several minutes. Repeat these intervals throughout your session.

This treadmill scenario is a basic example. Interval training has gained popularity in accomplishing diverse fitness goals — from those too short on time to chug through a lengthy workout to those anxious to shed pounds by a deadline. Get creative with the intense bursts of integrated activity.

Alternate the intensity. Double-time rules!
Alternate the intensity. Double-time rules!

It can be as simple as moving in double-time during segments of a Group Fitness class. Or, it can be an actual shift in exercises for a brief period. You even can modify your routine based on your day, mood, and energy level. Let the moment dictate the complexity of your intervals. The goal is to kick it up a notch at regular intervals, with the theory that these challenging segments lead to bigger improvements (and in less time).

Be prepared. Over time, those intervals will not be as intense. As cardiovascular fitness improves, so will that which defines your workout’s intensity. A 45-minute workout may be accomplished in 30 minutes as your maximum heart rate adjusts. The activity that achieved your 90-percent maximum rate will increase in speed, duration, frequency, or all of these.

As it becomes less of a challenge, more bursts and stronger intensity can be added. Your entire workout may become what your body once experienced as “intense.” Evolve with it to keep engaged and remain effective.

Interval training avoids continuous strain on muscles and joints, without sacrificing results. Consistently working out at a level that is personally moderate, with periods of intense and easy activity throughout, gives the body an immediate chance to recover. Workouts remain comfortable as you advance along your fitness journey. Adding challenge to workouts with this method usually will not result in being overly tired and achy, which also keeps you motivated for more.

For those with metabolic syndrome, the customization factor of intervals is ideal. Interval training for short periods can be safely incorporated into fitness routines of those with heart conditions. You must monitor your rate and proceed with caution. A personal trainer and the Center nurse can assist with this. Slowly introduce intense intervals, perhaps one or two per exercise session.

Keep the bursts short when starting. Thirty seconds may seem quick; however, when maxing your physical capacity, it can be plenty. Perhaps wait to introduce intense intervals until toward the end of your session. By then, muscles and joints will be warm and flexible. This helps avoid injury as well, especially for exercise newbies.

Beyond health benefits, interval training also can produce big gains in your game. It can be modified to mimic the movement and timing of that experienced during sports. A personal trainer can customize intervals for peak oxygen intake and heart rate. Then, you can better prepare your cardio capacity and strength to assure optimum performance at every event. Overall stamina improves, for the athlete or the overworked dad.

Make Your Own Fate

Fate made healthy.
Fate made healthy.

Metabolic syndrome indicates greater risk for life-threatening cardiac events. However, a diagnosis does not seal your fate. Use it as a motivator for prevention, not an instigator to quit the fight before any battle may begin. Like many other health conditions, metabolic syndrome is reversible. It consists of several risk factors, yet one good fitness program can help combat all of them.




“Hard Exercise Curbs Metabolic Syndrome,” by Miranda Hitti at

Image Credits

Fight heart disease (introductory photo):

Scale and tape measure:

Interval training:

Fate flower:


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