• aerobic fitness;
  • diabetes;
  • microvascular


Aim  To investigate whether aerobic fitness is associated with skin microvascular function in healthy adults with an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Methods  Twenty-seven healthy normal glucose-tolerant humans with either a previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes or having two parents with Type 2 diabetes and 27 healthy adults who had no history of diabetes were recruited. Maximal oxygen uptake was assessed using an incremental exercise test to exhaustion. Skin microvascular function was assessed using laser Doppler techniques as the maximum skin hyperaemic response to a thermal stimulus (maximum hyperaemia) and the forearm skin blood flow response to the iontophoretic application of acetylcholine (ACh) and sodium nitroprusside.

Results  Maximal oxygen uptake was not significantly different in the ‘at-risk’ group compared with healthy controls. Maximum hyperaemia was reduced in those ‘at risk’ (1.29 ± 0.30 vs. 1.46 ± 0.33 V, P = 0.047); however, the peak response to acetylcholine or sodium nitroprusside did not differ in the two groups. A significant positive correlation was demonstrated between maximal oxygen uptake and maximum hyperaemia (r = 0.52, P = 0.006 l/min and r = 0.60, P = 0.001 ml/kg/min) and peak ACh response (r = 0.40, P = 0.04 l/min and r = 0.47, P = 0.013 ml/kg/min) in the ‘at-risk’ group when expressed in absolute (l/min) or body mass-related (ml/kg/min) terms. No significant correlations were found in the control group.

Conclusions  In this ‘at-risk’ group with skin microvascular dysfunction maximal oxygen uptake was not reduced compared with healthy controls. However, in the ‘at-risk’ group alone, individuals with higher levels of aerobic fitness also had better microvascular and endothelial responsiveness.