(HealthDay News) — Physical activity may decrease the risk of progression from metabolically benign overweight/obesity (MBO) to at-risk overweight/obesity (ARO) in perimenopausal women, according to research published online May 20 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Unab I. Khan, MD, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY, and colleagues followed 866 women with MBO at baseline during a seven-year period to assess progression to ARO.

The researchers found that women who progressed to ARO, compared with those who remained MBO, had a higher body mass index (BMI) at baseline and a greater prevalence of cardiometabolic abnormalities, including higher blood pressure, elevated levels of glucose and triglycerides, and low level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. In multivariable analysis, increase in BMI was modestly associated with risk of progression. Baseline impaired fasting glucose was most strongly associated with risk of progression to ARO (hazard ratio [HR], 3.24; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.10–4.92; P<0.001). Physical activity was associated with decreased risk of progression to ARO (HR, 0.86; 95% CI, 0.80–0.92; P<0.001).

“Increasing obesity and the presence of cardiometabolic abnormalities increase the risk of progression, whereas physical activity is the only lifestyle factor protective against progression from metabolically benign to the at-risk overweight/obese phenotype, a state that is unanimously associated with an elevated risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality,” the authors write.

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