Background: We investigated association of a score incorporating relative grip strength (RGS) and timed up and go (TUG) test with incident type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) in older Chinese.

Methods: Both RGS and TUG scores were classified into tertiles (0~2 points) and summed to yield RGS-TUG score, ranging from 0 to 4 points, with higher points indicating better physical function. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to analyze association of RGS-TUG score with incident T2DM.

Results: 3,892 participants without T2DM were followed up for an average of 3.6 years with 240 developing T2DM. After adjustment, those with the lowest RGS-TUG score, versus the highest, had higher fasting glucose, two-hour post-load glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin A1c, with β (95% confidence interval (CI)) being 0.21 (0.08, 0.33), 1.06 (0.69, 1.43) and 0.16 (0.06, 0.27), respectively. In participants with BMI of ≥25 kg/m2, those with the lowest RGS-TUG score showed a higher risk of T2DM (adjusted hazard ratio 3.01, 95% CI 1.04–8.69). No association was found for BMI of 18.5~<25 kg/m2 (P for interaction < 0.05).

Conclusions: This is the first study showing lower RGS-TUG score was associated with increased glycemia and incident T2DM in older people with overweight/obesity. The underlying mechanisms warrant further investigation.