It is still unclear as to how cardiorespiratory fitness and visceral fat accumulation contribute to coronary heart disease (CHD) risk factors in patients with diabetes mellitus. The purpose of the present study was to investigate whether cardiorespiratory fitness contributes to such risk factors independently of visceral fat accumulation. Two hundred Japanese patients (137 men and 63 women, aged 22 to 81 years) with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and type 2 diabetes mellitus (type 2 DM) without any intervention and pharmacological therapy participated in a cross-sectional study. The levels of fasting insulin, triglyceride (TG), total cholesterol (TC), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), and resting blood pressure were assessed. Maximal oxygen uptake (V.o(2max)), an index of cardiorespiratory fitness, was predicted by a graded exercise test using a cycle ergometer. Visceral fat area (VFA) was measured by computed tomography scan. The criteria for abnormalities of the risk factors were determined according to the standard values for Japanese. All subjects were divided equally into the following 3 groups according to their fitness level: low-fit (V.o(2max) < 32 mL/kg/min in men, V.o(2max) < 26 mL/kg/min in women), mid-fit (32 < or = V.o(2max) < 36 in men, 26 < or = V.o(2max) < 30 in women), and high-fit (V.o(2max) > or = 36 in men, V.o(2max) > or = 30 in women). The association between fitness level and the prevalence of abnormal values for these parameters was analyzed by a multiple logistic regression model adjusted for age and VFA. The odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) for the prevalence of hyperinsulinemia were significantly lower in the mid-fit (OR = 0.35, 95% CI, 0.16 to 0.78) and in the high-fit groups (OR = 0.40, 95% CI, 0.16 to 0.98) compared with the low-fit group. In addition, ORs for the prevalence of low HDL-C in the mid-fit and high-fit groups were significantly lower (OR = 0.35, 95% CI, 0.14 to 0.86; and OR = 0.19; 95% CI, 0.08 to 0.60, respectively) than in the low-fit group. These results suggested that cardiorespiratory fitness might be one of the predictors of metabolic abnormalities, especially in patients with hyperinsulinemia and low HDL-C, independent of visceral fat accumulation in Japanese patients with IGT and type 2 DM.