Evidence of the influence of physical activity on the metabolic syndrome and/or on insulin resistance in pediatric populations: a systematic review

Int J Pediatr Obes. 2011 Oct;6(5-6):361-88. doi: 10.3109/17477166.2011.605896. Epub 2011 Aug 18.


This study is aimed at updating the relationships between physical activity (PA) and the metabolic syndrome (MetS) and/or insulin resistance (IR) in youth. Cross-sectional, prospective cohort and intervention studies, which examined the effect of PA on MetS, its components and IR in children and adolescents (<18 yrs), were searched by applying a combination of criteria in the PubMed database. The electronic search of studies published from 2000-2010 yielded >150 references. Of these, 37 studies were included. Twenty-six studies (70%) were cross-sectional observation studies, and two studies (8%) were prospective cohort studies. The remaining eight studies (22%) were interventions, of which three (<10% of all included studies) were randomized controlled trials. Commonly, higher PA levels were consistently associated with an improved metabolic profile and a reduced risk for MetS and/or IR in these populations. The impact of PA on MetS and/or IR appeared to be either independent of other factors, or alternatively or simultaneously mediated by the physical fitness and adiposity of youth. However, more-robustly designed interventions (i.e., some mega-randomized controlled trials based on lifestyle interventions) and additional cohort studies are required to make definitive inference about the magnitude and role of PA as a single genuine preventive and treatment strategy for the metabolic and cardiovascular risk of youth in the current obesogenic context.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / etiology*
  • Physical Fitness