Getting plenty of exercise as a teenager could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes during adulthood, according to new research.
The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Exeter, found that physical activity during early teenage years is an effective way to prevent insulin resistance, a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, and the benefits last a lifetime.
However, the benefits were tied specifically to the early years of adolescence. 13 year olds who got a lot of exercise saw a significant reduction in their risk of insulin resistance; 16 year olds did not.
The researchers stressed that exercising at all ages is still important. People over the age of 13 can still reduce their risk of insulin resistance through exercise, along with many other benefits. The research only suggested that people in their early teenage years should be specifically targeted, because the benefits of their exercise can last for years.
The study was conducted on 300 children, who were following through the ages of nine to 16. In the more active 13 year olds, insulin resistance was, on average, 17 per cent lower. Over the next three years, the benefits of exercise on insulin resistance were much lower.
“Insulin resistance rises dramatically from age nine to 13 years, then falls to the same extent until 16,” said Dr. Brad Metcalf, of the University of Exeter’s School of Sport and Health Science.
“Our study found that physical activity reduced this early-teenage peak in insulin resistance but had no impact at age 16.
“A reduction in this peak could lessen the demand on the cells that produce insulin during this critical period, which may preserve them for longer in later life.
“We are not saying that 16-year-olds don’t need to be physically active, there are other health benefits to be gained from being active at all ages.”
The findings were published in Diabetologia.

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