High cardiorespiratory fitness is more beneficial in pre-diabetic men than women

Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2011;66(5):747-51. doi: 10.1590/s1807-59322011000500007.


Objectives: To investigate gender-specific relationships between cardiorespiratory fitness and factors that predict the development of diabetes and to identify the risk factors that predict fasting plasma glucose and 2-hour plasma glucose levels.

Introduction: Different risk factors (e.g., low cardiorespiratory fitness) may cause elevated plasma glucose levels in men compared to women. Therefore, gender-specific analyses are needed.

Methods: Cardiorespiratory fitness (maximal power output achieved during a standard cycle ergometry test), resting blood pressure, total serum cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglyceride levels were measured in 32 pre-diabetic men (mean age: 57.2 ± 6.8 years; mean body mass index (BMI): 28.5 ± 3.0 kg/m²) and 40 pre-diabetic women (mean age: 55.0 ± 7.3 years, mean BMI: 30.4 ± 5.7 kg/m²). A stepwise regression with backward variable selection was performed to construct models that predict 2-hour and fasting plasma glucose levels.

Results: Maximal power output was inversely related to the 2-hour plasma glucose level in the entire group (r= -0.237, p<0.05), but this relationship was significant only for males (r= -0.404, p<0.05). No significant correlation was found between female gender and cardiorespiratory fitness. Age and cardiorespiratory fitness were significant predictors of 2-hour plasma glucose levels in men. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol was predictive of 2-hour plasma glucose levels in women. Triglycerides in women and BMI in men were the only predictors of fasting plasma glucose levels.

Conclusions: These findings may have consequences for the development of gender-specific diabetes prevention programs. Whereas increasing cardiorespiratory fitness should be a key goal for men, improving the lipid profile seems to be more beneficial for women. However, the present results do not negate the positive effects of increasing cardiorespiratory fitness in women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Glucose / analysis*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Exercise Test
  • Fasting / blood
  • Female
  • Glucose Tolerance Test / methods
  • Humans
  • Lipoproteins, HDL / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Prediabetic State / blood*
  • Prediabetic State / physiopathology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Blood Glucose
  • Lipoproteins, HDL
  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol