Diabetes prevention for teenagers

Building muscle strength as a teen can help prevent diabetes in adulthood.

Most teenagers don’t think about how their physical activity levels today could affect them in their adulthood
but a recent study hopes to change their outlook. The study concluded that teens who were routinely physically active and had good muscle strength were less likely to develop adult-onset type 2 diabetes as an adult.

Researchers in Sweden studied a select group of enlisted service personnel from 1969-1997, all participants were 18 years old, male, none of whom had a previous diagnosis of diabetes. The study monitored their physical strength and aerobic activity.  Interestingly, body mass (weight) which is commonly associated with adult-onset diabetes type 2 was not included or measured in this study.  

The group was followed through 2012 and half of the men in the study were diagnosed with diabetes after age 46.

Other findings revealed

  • That (inactivity) lack of physical muscular strength and lack of aerobic activity played a role in developing type 2 later in life.
  • The importance of regular physical activity especially those which include strength and aerobic movements impact health over a lifespan.
  • Males (less physically fit) were three times more likely to develop type 2 later in life.
  • Weight or BMI (body mass index) had no impact on whether the teen later developed type 2. 

What is muscle-strength training?

To build muscular endurance, you must train your muscles to overcome fatigue; this happens over time as you routinely work specific muscle areas, legs, arms core. For instance, muscle strength is not determined by how much you can ‘lift’ at one time; it’s about the endurance, meaning how you’ve built and strengthened muscles over time.

For teens, 18 years into adulthood, the Centers for Disease Contro; and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of physical activity per week. This includes both muscle-strength training and aerobic activity.

Getting to a gym or a gym membership is not always an option for teens. Other options include the following.

Muscle-strengthening activities

  • Regular weight training - Lifting weights, resistance training & adding ankle weights to a workout
  • Calisthenics - Muscle strength resistance, sit-ups, push-ups, cartwheels and handstands
  • Rock climbing
  • Martial Arts
  • Go to the playground - Use  the free apparatus there, bars, swings, balancing beams

Aerobic activities (vigorous-intensity aerobic activity)  

  • Dancing
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Geocaching
  • Biking
  • Playing active (standing up and moving) video games

To learn more about the risks of diabetes and prediabetes visit Michigan State University Extension.

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