To study the influence of a 3-week hiking vacation at moderate (1700 m) and low altitude (LA) (200 m) on key-markers of the metabolic syndrome, 71 male volunteers (age 36–66 yr old) with the metabolic syndrome [according to the National Cholesterol Education Program’s Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEP-ATP III) — or World Health Organization (WHO) — definition] participated in the study and were randomly assigned into a moderate altitude (MA) group (1700 m, no. 36) and a low altitude (LA) group (200 m, no. 35). The 3-week vacation program included 12 moderate-intensity guided hiking tours [4 times/week, 55–65% heart rate maximum (HRmax)] with a total exercise time of 29 h plus moderate recreational activities. Both study groups had a comparable and balanced nutrition with no specific dietary restrictions. Anthropometric, metabolic and cardiovascular parameters were measured 10–14 days before vacation, several times during the 3-week vacation, 7–10 days and 6–8 weeks after return. All participants tolerated the vacation without any adverse effects. Body weight, body fat, waist-circumference, fasting glucose, total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C), plasma fibrinogen, resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure were significantly decreased over time in both study groups. In the LA group, fasting insulin and homeostasis model assessment (HOMA)-index were significantly decreased one week after return. Relative cycle ergometry performance was significantly increased after return compared to baseline. In both study groups, waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), 2-h oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), HDL-cholesterol (HDL-C), and triglycerides remained unchanged. The 3-week vacation intervention at moderate and LA had a positive influence on all key-markers of the metabolic syndrome. No clinically relevant differences could be detected between the study groups. A hiking vacation at moderate and LA can be recommended for people with stable, controlled metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors.
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Greie, S., Humpeler, E., Gunga, H.C. et al. Improvement of metabolic syndrome markers through altitude specific hiking vacations. J Endocrinol Invest 29, 497–504 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03344138