Moderate Fitness Lowers Risk of Death for Normal Weight or Obese Men with Type 2 Diabetes

June 2008 - Being even moderately physically fit lowers a diabetic man's risk of death, regardless of his weight, according to a new study. Results will be presented at The Endocrine Society's 90th Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

The study found that for men with type 2 diabetes, moderate fitness levels reduced the risk of dying of any cause during an average follow-up period of seven years by 40 to 50 percent, even if they were overweight or obese.

"Death rates were the highest for those who were low fit in all weight categories," said Roshney Jacob-Issac, MD, an endocrinology fellow at George Washington University Hospital and the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Washington, D.C. She presented the study results.

Jacob-Issac and her co-workers studied 2,690 male diabetic veterans from the Washington, D.C., and Palo Alto, Calif., VA hospitals. Of these patients, 406 were a healthy weight, 1,088 were overweight and 1,196 were obese, as shown by their body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body fat using height and weight.

All subjects had a standard exercise tolerance test on a treadmill to determine their exercise capacity. Using a measure of the subject's peak metabolic rate achieved while exercising, the researchers categorized fitness level as low, moderate, and high.

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They found that the higher the level of fitness, the lower the risk of dying during the average seven-year follow-up period. Moderate fitness, compared with low fitness, reduced the death risk by 40 percent in healthy-weight and overweight men, and by 52 percent in obese individuals. High fitness level further increased this benefit in both healthy-weight and overweight subjects, to 60 and 65 percent, respectively. The difference in death risk could not be explained by age, risk factors for heart and vascular disease, or medications, the authors reported.

A person's fitness level depends partly on genetics but primarily on physical activity level, according to Jacob-Issac.

Based on the study findings, she recommended, "Diabetics should improve their fitness level or exercise capacity to at least a moderate level, by being physically active. Weight loss is great, but being active is just as important."

Several medical associations recommend that people do a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activityequivalent to brisk walkingat least five days of the week. Jacob-Issac said this amount of physical activity is adequate to achieve the health benefits reported in the current study.

Source: Endocrine Society