People with greater cardiorespiratory fitness are more likely to have better glycemic control, according to new research.
The study, conducted at the University of Copenhage, found that people with better physical fitness have several indicators of good glycemic control, including lower HbA1c levels and low fasting glucose.
The findings represent a new way of thinking about diabetes and fitness. Until now, a healthy weight has been associated with good glycemic control, hence the emphasis on weight loss for many people with type 2 diabetes.
But people can be a healthy weight and physically unfit. The new study suggests that physical fitness is beneficial in its own right, rather than just as a means of shedding excess body weight.
Exercise has long been a key part of good glycemic control, particularly for people with type 2 diabetes and people with type 1 diabetes trying to bring down high blood glucose levels. When we exercise, our muscles become more sensitive to insulin.
The researchers measured the participants’ height, weight, HbA1c, cholesterol, and fasting glucose levels. They also calculated each participant’s insulin sensitivity.
Then the participants took part in physical fitness tests, and the researchers assessed the existence of any links between physical fitness and indicators of glycemic control, such as HbA1c levels and fasting glucose levels.
“In conclusio, our study has advanced the prior knowledge that high cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with good glycemic control by showing that [cardiorespiratory fitness] is also positively associated with the disposition index in a cohort of adults representing the entire glucose tolerance continuum,” the researchers wrote.
“While the large contribution of body weight and BMI must not be ignored, these findings are clinically significant because they also highlight the importance of an indvidual’s cardiorespiratory fitness level in relation to the fundamental pathophysiological cause of hyperglycemia-related chronic disease.”

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