Background: The prevalence of metabolic syndrome (MetS) is growing rapidly in China. Tai chi and dancing are common types of exercise among middle-aged and elderly Chinese. It remains unclear whether these activities are associated with a lower risk of MetS.
Methodology/principal findings: A total of 15,514 individuals (6,952 men, 8,562 women) aged 50 to 70 years from the Dongfeng-Tongji Cohort in Shiyan, China participated in a cross-sectional study. Physical activity and other lifestyle factors were assessed with semi-structured questionnaires during face-to-face interviews. MetS was defined by the current National Cholesterol Education Program/Adult treatment Panel III criteria for Asian Americans. The prevalence of MetS was 33.2% in the study population. In the multivariable-adjusted logistic regression analyses, total physical activity levels were monotonically associated with a lower odds of MetS [OR 0.75 comparing extreme quintiles, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.66-0.86, P<0.001]. Compared with non-exercisers in a specific exercise type, jogging (OR 0.82, 95% CI 0.68-1.00, P = 0.046), tai chi (OR 0.72, 95% CI 0.60-0.88, P<0.001), and dancing (OR 0.56, 95% CI 0.47-0.67, P<0.001) were associated with significantly lower odds of MetS. Furthermore, each 1-h/week increment in tai chi and dancing was associated with a 5% (95% CI 2%-9%) and a 9% (95% CI 6%, 12%) lower risk of MetS.
Conclusions/significance: Jogging, tai chi and dancing are associated with a significantly lower risk of having MetS in middle-aged and older Chinese. Future intervention studies should consider the role of jogging, tai chi and dancing in preventing MetS.