Aims/hypothesis: We examined the independent and combined associations of physical activity and obesity with incident type 2 diabetes in men and women.
Methods: The InterAct case-cohort study consists of 12,403 incident type 2 diabetes cases and a randomly selected subcohort of 16,154 individuals, drawn from a total cohort of 340,234 participants with 3.99 million person-years of follow-up. Physical activity was assessed by a four-category index. Obesity was measured by BMI and waist circumference (WC). Associations between physical activity, obesity and case-ascertained incident type 2 diabetes were analysed by Cox regression after adjusting for educational level, smoking status, alcohol consumption and energy intake. In combined analyses, individuals were stratified according to physical activity level, BMI and WC.
Results: A one-category difference in physical activity (equivalent to approximately 460 and 365 kJ/day in men and women, respectively) was independently associated with a 13% (HR 0.87, 95% CI 0.80, 0.94) and 7% (HR 0.93, 95% CI 0.89, 0.98) relative reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes in men and women, respectively. Lower levels of physical activity were associated with an increased risk of diabetes across all strata of BMI. Comparing inactive with active individuals, the HRs were 1.44 (95% CI 1.11, 1.87) and 1.38 (95% CI 1.17, 1.62) in abdominally lean and obese inactive men, respectively, and 1.57 (95% CI 1.19, 2.07) and 1.19 (95% CI 1.01, 1.39) in abdominally lean and obese inactive women, respectively.
Conclusions/interpretation: Physical activity is associated with a reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes across BMI categories in men and women, as well as in abdominally lean and obese men and women.