Background: Data are scarce on the long term relationship between leisure time physical activity, smoking and development of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. We wanted to investigate the relationship between leisure time physical activity and smoking measured in middle age and the occurrence of the metabolic syndrome and diabetes in men that participated in two cardiovascular screenings of the Oslo Study 28 years apart.
Methods: Men residing in Oslo and born in 1923-32 (n = 16 209) were screened for cardiovascular diseases and risk factors in 1972/3. Of the original cohort, those who also lived in same area in 2000 were invited to a repeat screening examination, attended by 6 410 men. The metabolic syndrome was defined according to a modification of the National Cholesterol Education Program criteria. Leisure time physical activity, smoking, educational attendance and the presence of diabetes were self-reported.
Results: Leisure time physical activity decreased between the first and second screening and tracked only moderately between the two time points (Spearman's rho = 0.25). Leisure time physical activity adjusted for age and educational attendance was a significant predictor of both the metabolic syndrome and diabetes in 2000 (odds ratio for moderately vigorous versus sedentary/light activity was 0.65 [95% CI, 0.54-0.80] for the metabolic syndrome and 0.68 [0.52-0.91] for diabetes) (test for trend P < 0.05). However, when adjusted for more factors measured in 1972/3 including glucose, triglycerides, body mass index, treated hypertension and systolic blood pressure these associations were markedly attenuated. Smoking was associated with the metabolic syndrome but not with diabetes in 2000.
Conclusion: Physical activity during leisure recorded in middle age prior to the current waves of obesity and diabetes had an independent predictive association with the presence of the metabolic syndrome but not significantly so with diabetes 28 years later in life, when the subjects were elderly.