When Teens Don’t Move, Diabetes Risk in Adulthood Grows
If a teen at age eighteen has low aerobic capacity, which basically means he is not fit, and he also has low muscle strength, a sign he is not working out with weights, he has three times the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes as an adult. The new research, out of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, found that poor physical fitness in teens was an adult risk factor for diabetes, even if in adulthood the individual maintains a normal BMI.
Researchers from Mount Sinai and Lund University of Sweden reviewed the medical records of one and a half million male military personnel in Sweden during a one year period, focusing on fitness and health. Based on the way Sweden’s healthcare system tracks data, researchers could trace health records easily, over several decades. Specifically, they could see if and when Type 2 diabetes was diagnosed, up till age 62. Also unique to the data set, was the information about aerobic fitness and muscular fitness, which is often not followed. This is also the first study to look at the status of a person early-life physical fitness to see how it correlates to later-in-life risk of diabetes.
The findings clearly suggest that prevention is important and prevention is possible, if the intervention occurs early in life. A lifestyle intervention that emphasizes daily fitness and movement throughout the day in childhood and during the teen years can help to prevent type 2 diabetes, a lifestyle-related disease. The prevalence of diabetes has nearly doubled in the last 30 years, pacing neck and neck with rates of obesity. Both diseases are associated with diet and a sedentary lifestyle. Kids need physical education at school, but they also need to be active during the hours away from school and on the weekend. The public health sector needs to focus on promoting messaging that promotes fitness in youth and there need to be safe, available public spaces for outdoor playtime and for sports. These efforts are critical in preventing (early) adult onset diabetes.
If parents get the message that fitness is crucial to preventing diseases like diabetes, and if parents also model fitness behaviors, kids and teens will be more likely to embrace physical fitness. Programs like HealthCorps can have a huge impact on teen health, helping to inspire movement and reduce the risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
Cornerstones of the HealthCorps curriculum include nutrition and fitness education.
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