Telemonitoring-supported exercise training, metabolic syndrome severity, and work ability in company employees: a randomised controlled trial

Lancet Public Health. 2019 Jul;4(7):e343-e352. doi: 10.1016/S2468-2667(19)30075-1. Epub 2019 Jun 13.


Background: Metabolic syndrome is a predisposing factor for cardiovascular and metabolic disease, but also has socioeconomic relevance by affecting the health and productivity of workers. We tested the effect of regular telemonitoring-supported physical activity on metabolic syndrome severity and work ability in company employees.

Methods: This was a prospective, randomised, parallel-group, and assessor-blind study done in workers in the main Volkswagen factory (Wolfsburg, Germany). Volunteers with diagnosed metabolic syndrome according to American Heart Association/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute criteria were randomly assigned (1:1) to a 6-month lifestyle intervention focusing on regular exercise (exercise group), or to a waiting-list control group, using a computer-based assignment list with variable block length. Participants in the exercise group received individual recommendations for exercise at face-to-face meetings and via a smartphone application, with the aim of doing 150 min physical activity per week. Activities were supervised and adapted using activity-monitor data, which were transferred to a central database. Participants in the control group continued their current lifestyle and were informed about the possibility to receive the supervised intervention after study completion. The primary outcome was the change in metabolic syndrome severity (metabolic syndrome Z score) after 6 months in the intention-to treat population. This trial is registered with, number NCT03293264, and is closed to new participants.

Findings: 543 individuals were screened between Oct 10, 2017, and Feb 27, 2018, of whom 314 (mean age 48 years [SD 8]) were randomly assigned to receive the intervention (n=160; exercise group) or to a waiting list (n=154; control group). The mean metabolic syndrome Z score for the exercise group was significantly reduced after the 6-month intervention period (0·93 [SD 0·63] before and 0·63 [0·64] after the intervention) compared with the control group (0·95 [0·55] and 0·90 [0·61]; difference between groups -0·26 [95% CI -0·35 to -0·16], p<0·0001). We documented 11 adverse events in the exercise group, with only one event (a twisted ankle) regarded as directly caused by the intervention.

Interpretation: A 6-month exercise-focused intervention using telemonitoring systems reduced metabolic syndrome severity. This form of intervention shows significant potential to reduce disease risk, while also improving mental health, work ability, and productivity-related outcomes for employees at high risk for cardiovascular and metabolic disease.

Funding: Audi BKK health insurance and the German Research Foundation through the Cluster of Excellence REBIRTH.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention to Treat Analysis
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology
  • Occupational Diseases / therapy*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Telemetry / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wearable Electronic Devices
  • Work Capacity Evaluation
  • Work Performance / statistics & numerical data*

Associated data