Regular physical activity + healthy and balanced diet = better state of health. This is no secret. However, there is a major question: concretely, to what extent are these behaviors beneficial?
The recommendations for physical activity call for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, cycling or swimming. Adding two or three weekly strength training sessions is recommended (even lifting weights at home, such as water bottles). Healthy food essentially refers to high intakes of fruits and vegetables and to limiting red or processed meat (cold meats), by varying as much as possible other foods (dairy products, eggs, legumes, fish, etc.).
Cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes
An American team (Boston University) recalls that the combination of regular physical activity and a healthy diet is associated with the prevention of metabolic syndrome. This syndrome is well known to doctors, but probably less to the population. However, it constitutes a major risk situation for cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular accident (stroke) and diabetes.
In fact, it results in the conjunction of several disorders: arterial hypertension, low level of “good” (HDL) cholesterol, high level of triglycerides, excess weight (especially obesity), hyperglycemia, high production of insulin, abdominal fat (waist size). Classically, we speak of metabolic syndrome when at least three of these problems are present.
A considerable benefit
The management of metabolic syndrome is based primarily on lifestyle modification, in particular regarding diet and physical activity. These two pillars also constitute the priorities in terms of prevention. This has been quantified in some 2,500 adults (average age of 47 years). Their eating and physical habits were analyzed and this data was cross-checked with the diagnoses of metabolic syndrome. The results show that:
- Regular physical activity, meeting recommendations, reduces the risk of developing metabolic syndrome by 51%.
- A healthy diet lowers the risk by 33%.
- The combination of physical activity and diet reduces the risk by 65%.
The benefit is therefore considerable and it strengthens over time: the earlier the compliance with physical and nutritional recommendations, the more noticeable their effects. However, even a relatively late adoption is useful not only to reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome but also to alleviate it, and thus limit the serious consequences it can cause.