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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Association between physical activity and metabolic syndrome in middle-aged Japanese: a cross-sectional study

Junghoon Kim12, Kai Tanabe1, Noriko Yokoyama1, Hirofumi Zempo1 and Shinya Kuno13*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Sports Medicine, Graduate School of Comprehensive Human Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan

2 Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Tokyo, Japan

3 Tsukuba Wellness Research. Co., Ltd., Tsukuba, Japan

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:624  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-624

Published: 5 August 2011



Although many studies have reported an association between self-reported physical activity and metabolic syndrome (MetS), there is limited information on the optimal level of physical activity required to prevent MetS. This study aimed to determine the association between objectively measured physical activity and MetS in middle-aged Japanese individuals. We also determined the optimal cutoff value for physical activity required to decrease the risk of developing MetS.


A total of 179 men and 304 women, aged between 30 and 64 years, participated in this study. Participants were divided into two groups using the Japanese criteria for MetS as those with MetS or pre-MetS, and those without MetS. Participants were considered to be physically active if they achieved a physical activity level of 23 metabolic equivalents (METs) h/week, measured using a triaxial accelerometer. The association between physical activity and MetS was analyzed using logistic regression with the following covariates: sex, age, sedentary time, low intensity activity, calorie intake, smoking, menopause and body mass index. We also evaluated the factors that determined the association between the prevalence of MetS and pre-MetS and the physical activity cutoff value using classification and regression tree (CART) analysis.


The odds ratio for MetS and pre-MetS was 2.20 for physically inactive participants (< 23 METs h/week), compared with physically active participants (≥ 23 METs h/week). The corresponding odds ratios for men and women were 2.27 (P < 0.01) and 1.95 (not significant), respectively. CART analyses revealed that moderate-vigorous physical activity of > 26.5 METs h/week was sufficient to decrease the prevalence of MetS and pre-MetS in middle-aged Japanese men and women.


The results of this cross-sectional study indicate that the Exercise and Physical Activity Reference for Health Promotion 2006 is inversely associated with the prevalence of MetS in men. Our results also suggest that moderate physical activity of > 26.5 METs h/week may decrease the risk of developing MetS and pre-MetS in middle-aged Japanese individuals.