Children are being encouraged to be more physically active to help stave off the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in later life.
This is because a study by the University of Eastern Finland has found risk factors behind the condition along with cardiovascular disease (CVD) start to emerge in youngsters with limited aerobic fitness.
Aerobic exercise, also referred to as cardio, is exercise of low to high intensity, usually done over longer periods. It uses oxygen to generate the required energy, as opposed to quicker, anaerobic activities such as sprints.
The research has also suggested the conventional method of measuring aerobic fitness in relation to total body mass does in fact overestimate the role of aerobic fitness when assessing whether children are at a greater risk of these conditions.
Researchers created threshold measurements to assess the risk of type 2 diabetes and CVD in the girls and boys studied. They followed 352 youngsters aged from 9 to 11, determining their aerobic fitness by working out their peak oxygen uptake during an exercise session.
Other factors were also analysed, including their skeletal muscle mass, waist circumference, blood levels of insulin and glucose as well as HDL cholesterol and blood pressure.
There are a variety of ways to gauge aerobic fitness in children and adults, a common method involving dividing the aerobic fitness measure gained through from an exercise test by total body mass including fat. However, as this technique factors in body fat, it can deliver inaccurate interpretations when assessing type 2 diabetes and CVD risk.
This study revealed that inactive youngsters with lower aerobic fitness in relation to their total body mass have a significantly greater chance of type 2 diabetes and CVD when compared with physically active children.
However, when aerobic fitness was assessed in relation to skeletal muscle mass, this association remained but was much lower when proportioned to total body mass.
Dr Andrew Agbaje, who was involved in the study, said: “Measures of aerobic fitness that are based on total body mass are better at predicting the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease than measures that are based on skeletal muscle mass; however, they exaggerate the role of aerobic fitness in children’s health.
“We should be cautious when interpreting aerobic fitness measures that are proportioned to total body mass in order to correctly identify children who truly need health and lifestyle intervention.”
The study was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine &Science in Sports as part of the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) Study.

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