Workplaces with active lifestyle program can improve health outcomes for workers with metabolic syndrome

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A new study has found that workplaces introducing a personalised active lifestyle program for workers with metabolic syndrome can improve their health outcomes.

Metabolic syndrome is the term used to refer to a collection of risk factors that occur together and increase a person’s risk of diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

According to Victoria’s Better Health Channel, over 35 percent of Australian adults have metabolic syndrome. More than half of all Australians have at least one of the metabolic syndrome conditions.

The study published in The Lancet Public Health journal found that a program including wearable activity trackers, a smartphone app and face-to-face sessions with exercise coaches can reduce disease severity among people with metabolic syndrome.

Participants were also more productive because of their physical activities.

“By equipping participants with a wearable activity tracker we were able to guide and support individuals regardless of where they worked or lived,” said research lead Dr. Sven Haufe from Hannover Medical School in Germany.

With the high acceptance of recommended activity and mobile health technologies, and a dropout rate similar to that seen in other exercise programs, this type of intervention has huge potential to reduce disease risk, while improving mental health, work ability and productivity for the large and growing number of employees at high risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease in an ageing workforce.

“Offering similar programs to the broader workforce could ease the healthcare burden and economic costs arising from metabolic syndrome conditions that already affect 1 in 4 adults worldwide (over a billion people).”

The study included 314 participants in several occupations with metabolic syndrome from the main Volkswagen factory in Germany. They were randomly assigned to the lifestyle program which lasted for six months. The program focused on regular exercise. Participants in the control group continued their current lifestyle and were informed about the possibility of receiving supervised intervention after study completion.

Those in the exercise group wore a fitness tracker bracelet and received personalised exercise, nutrition, and stress management recommendations at regular face-to-face meetings through the help of a fitness coach and through a smartphone app with the aim of doing 15-minute physical activity per week.

The primary outcome was changed in metabolic syndrome severity after 6 months in the intention-to-treat population. The intervention showed significant potential to reduce disease risk, while also improving mental health, work ability, and productivity-related outcomes for employees at high risk for cardiovascular and metabolic disease.

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