Purpose of review: High levels of cardiorespiratory fitness and/or habitual physical activity are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. The responsible mechanisms are multifarious, but effects on insulin sensitivity are likely to play an important role. The purpose of this review is to highlight some recent evidence on the interrelationships between physical activity, fitness, obesity, genotype and insulin resistance.
Recent findings: Effects on cardiorespiratory fitness and abdominal obesity are both likely to contribute to the insulin-sensitizing effects of regular physical activity. Recent data suggest that at least in older adults, the intensity of an exercise intervention may influence the magnitude of changes in insulin sensitivity, and emerging data suggest that individual changes in insulin sensitivity following an exercise programme may, in part, be influenced by genotype.
Summary: Increasing physical activity reduces insulin resistance. As both intensity of exercise and genetic factors may modulate the magnitude of this effect, current physical activity for health guidelines that emphasize engagement in moderate-intensity physical activity in a 'one-size-fits-all' approach may need revision in the future to optimize the potential benefits accrued from individuals becoming more active.