About 47 million Americans (or 25 percent of the population) currently have metabolic syndrome. How did we get ourselves into this metabolic mess, where one-quarter of our population is on a path to type 2 diabetes and at high risk for having a heart attack?
While experts estimate that it’s about 30 percent genetic, the other 70 percent is “our sedentary lifestyle and our high-fat, high-carbohydrate diet,” says Sangeeta Kashyap, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine.
Move It — and Lose It
The single best thing you can do to combat metabolic syndrome is lose weight, advises Thomas Morledge, MD, of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. Studies on managing metabolic syndrome through lifestyle modifications show that losing just 7 percent of your body weight can help reduce blood pressure, glucose, triglycerides and cholesterol — in as little as four weeks.
On the other hand, sitting around and doing nothing will literally make you worse: Research shows that six months of inactivity leads to a buildup of inflammation-generating belly fat.
Dr. Kashyap recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week, or 30 minutes five times a week. You don’t have to start off with marathon training: Research shows that even modest amounts of exercise (walking 30 to 45 minutes per day, five days a week) can help improve insulin resistance and inflammation in belly fat.
Research has also shown that regular exercise can help raise your HDL cholesterol and lower LDL levels, and along the way, reduces your risk of heart attack and stroke. So what are you waiting for — get moving!
Put Yourself on the Right Path
As important as starting an exercise program is sticking with it. Walking is hard to beat as an entry into exercise: You need minimal equipment (just a pair of good shoes), you can do it anywhere and there are so many different ways you can do it.
Walk in your neighborhood, at the mall, on trails, on a treadmill, with an iPod, with friends, as part of a group — you get the idea. It’s as straightforward as taking a brisk half-hour walk every day. Keep in mind that 30 minutes is your goal for the whole day, so you could take a 15-minute walk at lunch and a 15-minute walk in the evening. With so many options for hitting the pavement, there’s practically no excuse not to walk!
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