Teens: It’s time to step up your game. New research suggests a lack of fitness and poor muscle strength at age 18 can increase the risk for Type 2 diabetes later in life, no matter your body weight. That’s according to a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
“Not only were both low aerobic and muscular fitness linked with a higher long-term risk of diabetes, but this was true even among those with normal body mass index,” lead author Dr. Casey Crump of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, told Reuters Health.
The study included more than 1.5 million 18-year-olds enlisted in the military in Sweden between 1969 and 1997, with no history of diabetes. The men were followed until 2012, when researchers discovered that about 2 percent, or 34,008 men, were diagnosed with diabetes. Half of the men in the study were diagnosed with diabetes after age 46.
Overall, the risk for diabetes was three times greater in teens who participated in less physical fitness and had less muscle strength, whether or not the teens had a healthy body mass index.
In an accompanying editorial, Peter Katzmarzyk of Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, wrote that the findings show that fitness traits were imperative for predicting future diabetes risk at any body weight. However, he warns it’s not possible to define what an optimal fitness level is, especially one that cuts across all ages and genders. Women were not included in the study, therefore these conclusions may not apply to them.
“More studies will be needed that measure physical fitness as well as diet and BMI at other time points across the lifespan to examine age windows of susceptibility to these factors in relation to diabetes,” Crump told Reuters.
The American Diabetes Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic exercise – such as brisk walking, bicycling, dancing, swimming or hiking – at least five days each week, or 150 minutes per week. The group suggests spreading physical activity over at least three days during the week and discourages going more than two consecutive days without exercise. In addition to exercise, the ADA recommends eating a healthy diet. This includes the flexibility to enjoy a variety of food, including vegetables, whole grains, fruit, non-fat dairy foods, healthy fats and lean meats or meat substitutes.