Sedentary Lifestyle As Teen Linked To Mid-Life Metabolic Syndrome
January 31, 2013

Sedentary Habits During Teen Years Linked To Mid-Life Metabolic Syndrome

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

A new study from researchers from Umeå University in Sweden found that 16-year-olds who watch television on a regular basis and live a sedentary lifestyle have an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome in their 40s.

In particular, the team of investigators found that a lack of exercise along with TV watching at age 16 resulted in a higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome by 43 years old. Metabolic syndrome refers to a group of conditions that include abdominal obesity, higher levels of blood lipids, hypertension and impaired glucose. In addition, having metabolic syndrome can elevate the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

“The results demonstrate that we need to consider how we can reduce sedentary lifestyle among children and adolescents,” explained the study´s lead author Patrik Wennberg, an adjunct professor of Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine at UmeÃ¥ University, in a prepared statement. “It may be more important than only focusing on increased fitness and sports activities for those who are already interested.”

Past studies have also shown a link between a lack of physical activity and a higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome. The current study has shown how the connection between the two can extend past youth and into adulthood. The researchers were able to observe a group of 888 participants from 1981 to 2008. The subjects, who lived in Sweden and were in ninth grade at the start of the study, were given self-administered questionnaires. The findings were recently published in the journal Diabetes Care.

“These findings suggest that reduced TV viewing in adolescence, in addition to and independently of regular leisure-time physical activity in adolescence and adulthood, may contribute to cardiometabolic health late in life,” concluded the researchers.

The study comes at a particularly important time, as childhood obesity is skyrocketing in countries like the United States. Sedentary lifestyles — which often include little exercise, long commutes to work and long periods of sitting — have contributed to the obesity epidemic. In 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the lack of physical activity was a leading cause of disease and disability for individuals around the globe. According to the organization, two million deaths each year can be attributed to too little physical activity.

The WHO recommends a number of steps to help prevent sedentary lifestyles. One tip is to engage in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. Governments and policy makers can get involved with this movement to promote lifestyle changes by advocating an environment where people can move freely, including building parks, playgrounds and communities centers that are widely accessible and making it safer for people to walk on sidewalks or ride bikes.