Sedentary patterns are associated with BDNF in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2021 Mar;121(3):871-879. doi: 10.1007/s00421-020-04568-2. Epub 2021 Jan 2.


Purpose: Exercise is beneficial to type-2 diabetes-mellitus (T2DM), and there is evidence showing that one of those benefits include a higher expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which has been implicated in improving fat oxidation and cognitive development. The deleterious effect of prolonged sedentary time (ST) on BDNF levels has never been examined in patients with T2DM. Our goal was to analyse the associations for sedentary patterns [i.e. breaks in ST per sedentary hour (BST-ST) and bouts of sedentary time (BSB) of different length] with BDNF in patients with T2DM, independent of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF).

Methods: Sample included 80 patients (38 women) with T2DM (58.3 ± 7.8 years). ST and MVPA were assessed by accelerometry (ActiGraph, GT3X + model), BDNF by blood collection and plasma quantification using commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay kits, and CRF was determined using a Bruce protocol to exhaustion, on a motorized treadmill.

Results: Positive associations for BST-ST (β = 0.155; p = 0.007) with BDNF, and negative associations for BSB longer than 15 min with BDNF were found (β = - 0.118; p = 0.049). Neither MVPA nor cardiorespiratory fitness eliminated the associations for BST-ST with BDNF, but MVPA eradicated the associations between BSB > 15 min and BDNF.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that interrupting ST and especially avoiding longer sedentary periods (> 15 min) may be beneficial for BDNF plasma abundance that may influence metabolic and cognitive functioning of patients with T2DM, especially for the ones presenting lower MVPA levels.

Trial registration: May 5, 2017, ClinicalTrials.govID:NCT03144505.

Keywords: Breaks in sedentary time; Cognition; Diabetes; Physical activity; Sedentary bouts.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • Cardiorespiratory Fitness
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / pathology
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Portugal / epidemiology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sedentary Behavior*


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • BDNF protein, human

Associated data