Background/aim: To determine the association of physical activity and the metabolic syndrome in a large national-representative sample of children.
Methods: This study was performed in 2003-2004 on 4,811 school students aged 6-18 years, selected by multi-stage random cluster sampling from six provinces in Iran. We assessed the level of physical activity using a standardized questionnaire, and categorized it to the tertiles. The metabolic syndrome was defined based on criteria analogous to those of the Adult Treatment Panel III.
Results: The participants comprised 2,248 boys and 2,563 girls with a mean age of 12.07 +/- 3.2 years. In all age groups, boys were more physically active than girls. The metabolic syndrome was detected in 14.1% of participants, and its prevalence was higher in those subjects in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd tertiles of physical activity, respectively (15.1 vs.14.2 and 13.1%, respectively, p <0.05). This difference was seen in boys, while no difference was found between girls in the 2nd and 3rd tertiles of physical activity. Physical activity was linked to a cluster of factors consisting of high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol and waist circumference, followed by triglycerides in boys, and of triglycerides, waist circumference and blood pressure in girls. In both genders, before and after adjustment for age and body mass index, low levels of physical activity significantly increased the risk of having the metabolic syndrome [in boys: OR: 1.8, 95% CI: 1.1, 2.1; and in girls, OR: 1.6 (1.1, 1.9)].
Conclusion: We found an association between physical activity and the metabolic syndrome, which was independent of body mass index and age. Children should be encouraged to have greater physical activity.
Copyright (c) 2007 S. Karger AG, Basel.