Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Even low level of physical activity is associated with reduced mortality among people with metabolic syndrome, a population based study (the HUNT 2 study, Norway)

Dorthe Stensvold123*, Javaid Nauman123, Tom IL Nilsen4, Ulrik Wisløff123, Stig A Slørdahl23 and Lars Vatten135

Author affiliations

1 K.G. Jebsen Center of Exercise in Medicine, Department of Circulation and Medical Imaging, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

2 Department of Circulation and Medical Imaging, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

3 St. Olavs Hospital, Postboks 3250 Sluppen, 7006 Trondheim, Norway

4 Human Movement Science Programme, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Dragvoll, Loholt allé 81, Trondheim, Norway

5 Department of Public Health, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Postboks 8905, MTFS, 7491 Trondheim, Norway

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Citation and License

BMC Medicine 2011, 9:109  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-109

Published: 29 September 2011



Low levels of physical activity may increase the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a cluster of metabolic factors that are associated with the risk of premature death. It has been suggested that physical activity may reduce the impact of factors associated with metabolic syndrome, but it is not known whether physical activity may reduce mortality in people with metabolic syndrome.


In a prospective study of 50,339 people, 13,449 had metabolic syndrome at baseline and were followed up for ten years to assess cause-specific mortality. The population was divided into two age groups: those younger than 65 years of age and those older than age 65. Information on their physical activity levels was collected at baseline.


Metabolic syndrome was associated with higher mortality from all causes (hazard ratio (HR) 1.35, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.20 to 1.52) and from cardiovascular causes (HR 1.78, 95% CI 1.39 to 2.29) in people younger than 65 years old than among other populations. In older people, there was no overall association of metabolic syndrome with mortality. People with metabolic syndrome who reported high levels of physical activity at baseline were at a reduced risk of death from all causes compared to those who reported no physical activity, both in the younger age group (HR 0.52, 95% CI 0.37 to 0.73) and in the older age group (HR 0.59, 95% CI 0.47 to 0.74).


Among people with metabolic syndrome, physical activity was associated with reduced mortality from all causes and from cardiovascular causes. Compared to inactivity, even low levels of physical activity were associated with reduced mortality.

metabolic syndrome; physical activity; mortality