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Physical Activity and Abdominal Fat Distribution in Greenland


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: October 2017 - Volume 49 - Issue 10 - p 2064–2070
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001337

Purpose We examined how total volume of physical activity and reallocation of time spent at various objectively measured intensities of physical activity (PA) were associated with overall and abdominal fat distribution in adult Inuit in Greenland.

Methods Data were collected as part of a countrywide cross-sectional health survey in Greenland. A combined accelerometer and HR monitor measured total physical activity energy expenditure (PAEE) and intensities of PA (N = 1536). Visceral adipose tissue (VAT) and subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) were assessed by ultrasonography. Isotemporal substitution modeling was used to analyze the association between substitution of 1 h of sedentary time to light- or moderate-intensity PA and 1 h light-intensity PA to moderate- or vigorous-intensity PA in relation to body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), SAT, and VAT.

Results A negative linear association was found for total PAEE and BMI, WC, VAT, and SAT. Exchanging 1 h of sedentary time with light-intensity PA was associated with lower WC (−0.6 cm, P = 0.01), SAT (−0.08 cm, P < 0.001), and VAT (−0.04 cm, P = 0.359). Exchanging light-intensity PA with vigorous-intensity PA resulted in −6.1-cm lower WC (P < 0.001), −0.7-cm lower VAT (P = 0.018) and −0.7-cm lower SAT (P < 0.001). When further adjusting for BMI, the associations were attenuated; however, most of them remained significant, and the directions were mostly unchanged. All 1-, 5-, and 10-min bouts of MVPA were negatively associated with overall and abdominal fat distribution.

Conclusion Physical activity energy expenditure is associated with lower BMI, WC, and abdominal fat among Greenland Inuit. The importance of promoting an upward shift of the whole PA intensity distribution and to spur even short bouts of MVPA to limit excessive accumulation of SAT and VAT is highlighted.

1National Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Copenhagen, DENMARK; 2MRC Epidemiology Unit, Institute of Metabolic Science, Cambridge, UNITED KINGDOM; 3Greenland Centre for Health Research, University of Greenland, Nuuk, GREENLAND; and 4Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen, Gentofte, DENMARK

Address for correspondence: Marit Eika Jørgensen, M.D., Ph.D., Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen, Gentofte, Denmark, Niels Steensensvej 2 2820 Gentofte, Denmark; E-mail:

Submitted for publication January 2017.

Accepted for publication May 2017.

© 2017 American College of Sports Medicine