High Intensity Interval Training Superior to Moderate Exercise for Reversing Metabolic Syndrome- Study

According to the results of a Norwegian study, a group of participants who performed high intensity interval training for sixteen weeks, successfully eliminated signs of metabolic syndrome, present at baseline, when compared to people who performed regular, moderate intensity exercise. Senior author of the study, Dr Ulrik Wisløff (Norwegian University of Science and Technology), says, "This is the first time a study has compared the real cardiovascular effects of exercise intensity in individuals with metabolic syndrome. Individuals who took part in the study exercised with different intensities but used the same amount of energy in each training session."

When compared to the moderate intensity group, oxygen absorption rates also increased by 35% with more vigorous exercise, versus 16% in the moderate exercise group. The authors speculate that the higher heart rates required for high intensity training are more beneficial for improving endothelial function, perhaps meaning that the message about the health benefits of exercise should not be the same for everyone. "Look at the effects of today's recommendations: they do not work, or we do not get people to exercise as much as recommended. Instead, more and more people get fat and get metabolic syndrome, says Dr. Wisløff.” He believes that, “shorter and harder training sessions may be good medicine for improved fitness and reversal — and prevention — of established cardiovascular risk factors."

That’s not to say, that moderate exercise did not show benefits. Both groups of study participants lost the same amount of weight, as well as reduction in waist circumference.

The take home message is that people with abdominal obesity, hypertension, glucose intolerance, and dyslipidemia, all symptoms of metabolic syndrome, should consider trying to exercise intensively two times a week for at least ten to fourteen weeks to reduce their risk of premature death, while also weighing the potential risks associated with musculoskeletal and further cardiovascular complications. Dr, Wisløff says he and his colleagues have performed other tests that show aerobic exercise is superior to consistent moderate intensity exercise in heart failure patients and those with coronary artery disease. He is confident that people with metabolic syndrome will not get better, and will die prematurely from cardiovascular disease, unless his treatment strategy is “taken seriously by medical doctors."

The current study poses a challenge for previously inactive people. Committing to vigorous exercise may be problem. Starting at a moderate exercise level and making the goal of vigorous exercise sustainable (and safe) are important considerations for anyone who has been sedentary.

The group plans to gather more information beginning this year. Dr. Wisløff hopes that, the SmartEX study will provide “valuable information two to four years from now”.

Source: Aerobic Interval Training Versus Continuous Moderate Exercise as a Treatment for the Metabolic Syndrome. A Pilot Study