Does physical activity lower HbA1c in people without diabetes?

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  • Moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA) and BMI are independently associated with glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c).
  • The association of MVPA with HbA1c is stronger in people with higher BMI levels.

Why this matters

  • The effects of physical activity and weight loss on HbA1c are well defined in populations with diabetes, however, they are less clear in populations without diabetes.

Key results

  • Every 30 min/day increment in MVPA was associated with a 0.7 mmol/mol (0.07% (P<.001)) lower HbA1c level.
  • Each 1 kg/m2 increment in BMI was associated with a 0.2 mmol/mol (0.02% (P<.001)) higher HbA1c level.
  • The association of MVPA with HbA1c was stronger in obese individuals (-1.5 mmol/mol (-0.13% (P<.001))) than non-obese individuals (-0.7 mmol/mol (-0.06% (P<.001))); P=.004 for interaction.
  • The association of BMI with HbA1c remained stable across MVPA categories.

Study design

  • This study used 2008 Health Survey for England data to evaluate the associations of objectively measured moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA) and BMI with glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) in 1109 participants (age ≥18 y).
  • MVPA was measured using an ActiGraph GT1M accelerometer.
  • Funding: UK Research Councils’ Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Initiative.


  • Cross-sectional design.