This study examined the association of sport participation with health outcomes and whether this relation differs between body mass index (BMI)-level subpopulations.
Research outcomes for sport participation were compared with other types of leisure-time physical activity (PA). We used the Cox proportional hazards regression models to assess the associations of sport participation, and four other PA types (cycling, gardening, doing odd jobs, and walking), with the risk of prediabetes, type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), and all-cause mortality in 97,212 individuals (58.4% women; mean age: 46.5 years) in the Dutch LifeLines cohort. Outcomes were stratified by three BMI levels: healthy weight (BMI: 18.5-24.9 kg/m2), overweight (BMI: 25.0-29.9 kg/m2), and obesity (BMI: 30.0 kg/m2 or above).
Sport participation was associated with lower health risks, but only significantly so for prediabetes (HR = 0.86, 95% CI: 0.81-0.92). For healthy weight persons, sport participation was associated with the largest risk reductions, with significantly lower risks of prediabetes (HR = 0.78, 95% CI: 0.68-0.90) and all-cause mortality (HR = 0.79, 95% CI 0.65-0.96). Other PA types were not associated with significantly lower health risks, with the exception of cycling, for which significantly lower health risks for persons with overweight were found.
Our findings show that sport participation is associated with lower health risks, especially prediabetes, but the effect varies between BMI levels, with the strongest link for persons with a healthy weight. Sport participation, together with cycling, is likely to be more effective in reducing health risks than other types of PA.