Aims To determine if the level of leisure time physical activity (LTPA) in young adulthood in obese and non-obese men reduces the risk of insulin resistance (IR) and impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) in middle age, and if such an effect is explained by the current level of LTPA, or by the body mass index (BMI) history preceding and subsequent to the assessment of LTPA.
Methods Longitudinal study of groups of obese and randomly selected non-obese men identified at around age 19, and re-examined at mean ages of 32, 44 and 51. BMI was measured at all four examinations. LTPA was assessed by self-administrated questionnaires at the last three examinations. IR and the presence of IGT was determined by an oral glucose tolerance test at the last examination.
Results LTPA in young adulthood reduced the risk of IR and IGT in middle age throughout the range of BMI. Adjustment for the BMI history preceding and subsequent to the assessment of LTPA attenuated the association with IR and IGT, but active men remained at low risk of IR and IGT. Adjustment for subsequent and current levels of LTPA, smoking habits, alcohol intake, educational level and family history of diabetes had no notable influence on the results.
Conclusion LTPA appears to reduce the risk of IR and IGT, an effect which is not explained by the current level of physical activity, and only partially explained by the BMI history preceding and subsequent to the assessment of LTPA.