Sports Medicine

, Volume 48, Issue 5, pp 1151–1164 | Cite as

The Effect of Physical Activity Interventions on Glycosylated Haemoglobin (HbA1c) in Non-diabetic Populations: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

  • Iván Cavero-Redondo
  • Bárbara Peleteiro
  • Celia Álvarez-Bueno
  • Enrique G. Artero
  • Miriam Garrido-Miguel
  • Vicente Martinez-Vizcaíno
Systematic Review



Physical activity is widely perceived to be beneficial for preventing type 2 diabetes mellitus and for controlling glycaemic levels in patients with type 2 diabetes, but evidence supporting a positive effect in the control of glycaemic levels in healthy people is rather weak. The aim of this review was to estimate the effect of physical activity on glycaemic control measured by glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c) levels in non-diabetic populations, and to determine which type of physical activity has a greater influence on glycaemic control.


We systematically searched the MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library and Web of Science databases, from inception to May 2017, for experimental studies addressing the effect of physical activity on glycaemic control measured by HbA1c levels in non-diabetic populations. The DerSimonian and Laird method was used to compute pooled estimates of effect size (ES) and respective 95% confidence intervals (CIs). The effect of physical activity on HbA1c levels was estimated in two ways: (1) physical activity intervention versus control; and (2) physical activity pre–post intervention. Additionally, subgroup analyses were performed based on age of participants and different aspects of the intervention.


Fifteen published studies were included in the meta-analysis. In analyses comparing physical activity intervention and control, we found a decrease of HbA1c levels in favour of the intervention group (ES = 0.32; 95% CI 0.01–0.62) with substantial heterogeneity (I2 = 63.2%; p = 0.008). In the pre–post analysis, there was a decrease in HbA1c levels post physical activity intervention (ES = 0.17; 95% CI 0.01–0.33) with low heterogeneity (I2 = 25.8%; p = 0.164). Additionally, for physical activity intervention versus control, a decrease in HbA1c levels was observed in resistance exercise and in intervention length below 12 weeks. Furthermore, for pre–post effect analyses, a decrease in HbA1c levels was observed in the supervised physical activity programme, other type of exercises, intervention length below 12 weeks and exercise intervention week duration above 150 min subgroups.


This systematic review and meta-analysis provides an overview of the evidence supporting physical activity as a suitable intervention for glycaemic control as measured by HbA1c levels in non-diabetic populations.

Trial Registration

PROSPERO CRD42016050991.


Author Contributions

VM-V and IC-R designed the review and meta-analysis. VM-V was the principal investigator and guarantor. IC-R and VM-V were the main coordinators of the review. BP, CA-B and VM-V conducted the review. MG-M, EGA and CA-B gave statistical and epidemiological support. IC-R wrote the article with the support of CA-B, EGA and BP. All authors revised and approved the final version of the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


Ivan Cavero-Redondo is supported by a grant from the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha (FPU13/01582). Celia Alvarez-Bueno is supported by a grant from the Spanish Ministry of Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport (FPU13/03137). Miriam Garrido-Miguel is supported by a Grant from the Spanish Ministry of Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport (FPU15/03847). No specific sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.

Conflict of interest

Ivan Cavero-Redondo, Barbara Peleteiro, Celia Alvarez-Bueno, Enrique Garcia Artero, Miriam Garrido-Miguel and Vicente Martinez-Vizcaino declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.

Supplementary material

40279_2018_861_MOESM1_ESM.docx (81 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 81 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Iván Cavero-Redondo
    • 1
  • Bárbara Peleteiro
    • 2
    • 3
  • Celia Álvarez-Bueno
    • 1
  • Enrique G. Artero
    • 4
  • Miriam Garrido-Miguel
    • 1
  • Vicente Martinez-Vizcaíno
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Health and Social Research CenterCuencaSpain
  2. 2.EPIUnit-Instituto de Saúde PúblicaUniversidade do PortoPortoPortugal
  3. 3.Departamento de Ciências da Saúde Pública e Forenses e Educação Médica, Faculdade de MedicinaUniversidade do PortoPortoPortugal
  4. 4.SPORT Research Group (CTS-1024)University of AlmeríaAlmeríaSpain
  5. 5.Facultad de Ciencias de la SaludUniversidad Autónoma de ChileTalcaChile

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