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Background: Physical activity reduces the likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome (MetS). However, the association between different physical activity levels and MetS remains unclear in older adults with obesity. Methods: This cross-sectional study used four waves of data (2007-2008, 2009-2010, 2011-2012, 2013-2014) from two datasets: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and United Sates Department of Agriculture’s Food Patterns Equivalents Database. The sample included adults 60+ years of age (n= 613) with obesity who had physical activity and MetS data. Physical activity was assessed using the Global Physical Activity Questionnaire and categorized into three physical activity levels (low, medium, and high); and medium or high physical activity levels are aligned with or exceed current physical activity recommendations. Participants were classified as having MetS using a commonly agreed upon definition. Multiple logistic regression models examined the association between the three physical activity levels and MetS risk factors and MetS. All analyses adjusted for potential confounding variables and accounted for complex sampling. Results: Of 613 respondents, 72.1% (n=431) were classified as having MetS, and 44.3% (n = 263) had not met physical activity recommendations. Participants with high levels of physical activity had a lower risk of MetS (OR = 0.31, 95%CI: 0.13, 0.72) and more healthful levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (OR = 0.39, 95%CI: 0.18, 0.84), blood pressure (OR = 0.39, 95%CI: 0.20, 0.77), fasting glucose (OR = 0.34, 95%CI: 0.15, 0.78) than participants categorized as having low physical activity. Conclusions: Physical activity is associated with lower risk of MetS only for participants with the highest level of physical activity, which suggests that physical activity dosage is important to reduce MetS risk in older adults with obesity.


Furong Xu and Michael J. Delmonico are in the Department of Kinesiology.

Steven A. Cohen and Mary L. Greaney are in the Health Studies Program.

Ingrid E. Lofgren and Geoffrey W. Greene are in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences.