Aims We investigated the joint associations of leisure time physical activity and abdominal obesity with fasting insulin and 2-h glucose levels and with the risk of impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and Type 2 diabetes (Type 2 DM).
Methods A cross-sectional population-based random sample of 1812 Finnish adults 45–74 years of age without a history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Relative energy expenditure during the previous 12 months (METh/week), assessed by a questionnaire, was used as a measure of leisure time physical activity. Waist–hip ratio (WHR) was used as a measure of abdominal obesity. IGT and Type 2 DM were assessed by a 2-h oral glucose tolerance test and were defined according to the World Health Organization guidelines.
Results While 2-h glucose and fasting insulin levels increased with increasing WHR (P < 0.001 and P < 0.001, respectively), both of them decreased with increasing physical activity (P = 0.015 and P < 0.001, respectively). The highest 2-h glucose and fasting insulin levels were found among individuals who had most abdominal obesity and were least physically active. Physically inactive individuals had a higher prevalence of IGT and Type 2 DM in all WHR tertiles than physically active persons.
Conclusions Higher levels of leisure time physical activity are associated with lower 2-h glucose and fasting insulin levels and a reduced risk of having IGT and Type 2 DM, independent of the level of abdominal obesity.