Background and aim: Regular physical activity is of great importance in the management of type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM). We investigate here the levels of moderate/vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and participation in sporting activity in a sample of children and adolescents with T1DM and analyse whether they differed from healthy subjects. The family variables associated with MVPA or sports participation and the influence of exercise on metabolic parameters are also explored.
Methods and results: In this cross-sectional case control study, 138 children and adolescents with T1DM (of which 67 were boys, age 13.6+/-4.1 years; duration of diabetes 6.1+/-3.8 years) and 269 (of which 120 were boys) healthy controls were studied. Weekly levels of MVPA and sports participation were investigated using a questionnaire. Body mass index standard deviation score (BMI-SDS) values, plasma total cholesterol, serum triglycerides and the mean glycated haemoglobin (A1c) levels over the past year were assessed in T1DM subjects. MVPA scores in T1DM patients were lower than in controls (p=0.0004). MVPA was higher in boys than in girls, both in diabetic and control subjects; T1DM girls were less frequently engaged in MVPA than control girls. MVPA scores were significantly and independently correlated with sex, age and diabetic status. Lower triglyceride levels and fewer subjects with poor metabolic control were found more among physically active patients (MVPA>5 days/week) than in inactive patients (weekly MVPA=0). Sports participation was lower in T1DM patients than in controls (p=0.002) and was significantly and independently correlated with sex, father's education level and diabetic status. Triglyceride levels and the percentage of subjects with poor metabolic control were significantly lower in sports participants than in non-participants.
Conclusions: Children and adolescents with T1DM appeared to spend less time in physical activity than their non-diabetic peers. Regular physical activity was associated with better metabolic control and lipid profile. Adolescents, particularly the girls, tended to be less active. Further efforts should be made to motivate patients with type 1 diabetes.