Objective: Physical activity is a modifiable risk factor for type 2 diabetes, partly through its action on insulin sensitivity. We report the relation between insulin sensitivity and physical activity measured by accelerometry.
Research design and methods: This is a cross-sectional study of 346 men and 455 women, aged 30-60 years, without cardiovascular disease and not treated by drugs for diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, or obesity. Participants were recruited in 18 clinical centers from 13 European countries. Insulin sensitivity was measured by hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp. Physical activity was recorded by accelerometry for a median of 6 days. We studied the relationship of insulin sensitivity with total activity (in counts per minute), percent of time spent sedentary, percent of time in light activity, and activity intensity (whether the participant recorded some vigorous or some moderate activity).
Results: In both men and women, total activity was associated with insulin sensitivity (P < 0.0001). Time spent sedentary, in light activity, and activity intensity was also associated with insulin sensitivity (P < 0.0004/0.01, 0.002/0.03, and 0.02/0.004, respectively, for men/women) but lost significance once adjusted for total activity. Adjustment for confounders such as adiposity attenuated the relationship with total activity; there were no interactions with confounders. Even in the 25% most sedentary individuals, total activity was significantly associated with better insulin sensitivity (P < 0.0001).
Conclusions: Accumulated daily physical activity is a major determinant of insulin sensitivity. Time spent sedentary, time spent in light-activity, and bouts of moderate or vigorous activity did not impact insulin sensitivity independently of total activity.