For young teens, not having good cardiorespitory fitness or being weak can increase their risk for type 2 diabetes later in life, no matter how much they weigh.
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“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,” said lead author Dr. Casey Crump of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
These risk factors work together. In other words, a combination of low cardio fitness and few muscles increases the risk more than those who only have one of the issues.
The researchers used data from more than one million military conscripts taken in Sweden between 1969 and 1997 without a history of diabetes. The researchers then followed these men until 2012, looking for type 2 diabetes diagnoses using outpatient registries.
According to the research, 2%, or 34,000 men, were diagnosed with diabetes. Half of these were after age 46, as reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine, March 7.
Of those studied, those were the least fit at 18-years-old were 3x more likely to get diabetes than those who had better measures of aerobic capacity and strength, regardless of body mass index.
“This study showed that fitness traits were important for the prediction of future diabetes at any body weight so it should not be ignored,” said Peter T. Katzmarzyk of Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study.
However, he also warns that “every study uses a different definition of ‘fitness’ and it is not really possible to come up with a single number that can define fitness level, especially given the known difference across ages and between men and women."
Activity level and genetics are also major determinants of physical fitness. However, activity level is the most important, according to Crump.
“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,” he said.
These studios also don't include women or those with other diets.
“Young people should maintain regular exercise and both aerobic and muscular fitness, and avoid barriers to this such as screen time,” Crump said.