Long-term leisure-time physical activity and serum metabolome

Circulation. 2013 Jan 22;127(3):340-8. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.112.105551. Epub 2012 Dec 20.


Background: Long-term physical inactivity seems to cause many health problems. We studied whether persistent physical activity compared with inactivity has a global effect on serum metabolome toward reduced cardiometabolic disease risk.

Methods and results: Sixteen same-sex twin pairs (mean age, 60 years) were selected from a cohort of twin pairs on the basis of their >30-year discordance for physical activity. Persistently (≥5 years) active and inactive groups in 3 population-based cohorts (mean ages, 31-52 years) were also studied (1037 age- and sex-matched pairs). Serum metabolome was quantified by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. We used permutation analysis to estimate the significance of the multivariate effect combined across all metabolic measures; univariate effects were estimated by paired testing in twins and in matched pairs in the cohorts, and by meta-analysis over all substudies. Persistent physical activity was associated with the multivariate metabolic profile in the twins (P=0.003), and a similar pattern was observed in all 3 population cohorts with differing mean ages. Isoleucine, α1-acid glycoprotein, and glucose were lower in the physically active than in the inactive individuals (P<0.001 in meta-analysis); serum fatty acid composition was shifted toward a less saturated profile; and lipoprotein subclasses were shifted toward lower very-low-density lipoprotein (P<0.001) and higher large and very large high-density lipoprotein (P<0.001) particle concentrations. The findings persisted after adjustment for body mass index.

Conclusions: The numerous differences found between persistently physically active and inactive individuals in the circulating metabolome together indicate better metabolic health in the physically active than in inactive individuals.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Cohort Studies
  • Fatty Acids / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isoleucine / blood
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Lipoproteins / blood
  • Male
  • Metabolome / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Twins, Dizygotic
  • Twins, Monozygotic
  • Young Adult


  • Blood Glucose
  • Fatty Acids
  • Lipoproteins
  • Isoleucine