Background: Questions remain as to whether higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness, a measure of regular physical activity, are associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality in overweight and obese individuals with diabetes. Our objective was to quantify the independent and joint relations of cardiorespiratory fitness (hereafter, fitness) and body mass index (BMI; calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters) with CVD mortality in men with diabetes.
Methods: This study was conducted using prospective observational data from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study. Study participants comprised 2316 men with no history of stroke or myocardial infarction and who were diagnosed as having diabetes (mean [SD] age, 50  years); had a medical examination, including a maximal exercise test during 1970 to 1997 with mortality surveillance to December 31, 1998; and had a BMI of 18.5 or greater and less than 35.0. The main outcome measure was CVD mortality across levels of fitness with stratification by BMI.
Results: We identified 179 CVD deaths during a mean (SD) follow-up of 15.9 (7.9) years and 36,710 man-years of exposure. In a model containing age, examination year, fasting glucose level, systolic blood pressure, parental history of premature CVD, total cholesterol level, cigarette smoking, abnormal resting, and exercise electrocardiograms, a significantly higher adjusted risk of mortality was observed in men with a low fitness level who were normal weight (hazard ratio, 2.7 [95% confidence interval, 1.3-5.7]), overweight (hazard ratio, 2.7 [95% confidence interval, 1.4-5.1]), and class 1 obese (hazard ratio, 2.8 [95% confidence interval, 1.4-5.1]) compared with normal weight men with a high fitness level.
Conclusion: In this cohort of men with diabetes, low fitness level was associated with increased risk of CVD mortality within normal weight, overweight, and class 1 obese weight categories.