Physical activity is a protective factor against type 2 diabetes in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), and being active reduces the risk of developing OSA and is associated with a better cardiometabolic profile, according to new research published in the European Respiratory Journal.

The study aimed to examine the incidence of OSA in relation to physical activity, and the role of physical activity as a protective factor in individuals with OSA on the incidence of cardiometabolic diseases, in an eight to nine-year follow-up study.

The research team, from Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Santos, Brazil, analysed data from 658 volunteers from the São Paulo Epidemiologic Sleep Study (EPISONO), a cohort study of individuals aged 20–80 years, collected through polysomnography, the International Physical Activity Questionnaire and an assessment of cardiometabolic profile.

The follow-up data showed that the risk ratio to develop type 2 diabetes was increased by 3.527-fold in OSA patients; however, OSA patients who were active had a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes (risk ratio of 0.493-fold).

The risk ratio of developing OSA was reduced by 0.877-fold in active participants and increased metabolic equivalent was negatively associated with OSA severity, even when adjusted for body mass index.

These findings suggest that physical activity is a protective factor against type 2 diabetes in patients with OSA, and that being active can reduce the risk of developing OSA, as well as resulting in a better cardiometabolic profile.

The authors note that the lack of objective measurement of physical activity, and the high dropout of volunteers who did not return for the follow-up evaluation, are potentially limiting factors to this study.