Physical activity for the prevention and treatment of metabolic disorders
Metabolic syndrome and its various features (obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetes, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease) are increasing worldwide and constitute a severe risk for the sustainability of the present universal Italian health care system. Lifestyle interventions should be the first therapeutic strategy to prevent/treat metabolic diseases, far before pharmacologic treatment. The role of diet and weight loss has been fully ascertained, whereas the role of physical activity is frequently overlooked both by physicians and by patients. Physical activity has favorable effects on all components of the metabolic syndrome and on the resulting cardiovascular risk, the cornerstone in the development of cardiometabolic diseases. The quantity and the frequency of physical activity necessary to produce beneficial effects has not been defined as yet, but brisk walking is considered particularly appropriate, as it can be practiced by a large number of individuals, without any additional cost, and has a low rate of injury. The effects of exercise and leisure time physical activity extend from prevention to treatment of the various components of the metabolic syndrome, as well as to mood and quality of life. Any effort should be done to favor adherence to protocols of physical activity in the community.