A study was conducted in the UK to discover whether being physically active throughout childhood and into early teens would have a significant effect on insulin resistance. The study has been published in a time where childhood obesity has increased significantly across the globe. One in ten children in Ireland are obese with a further one in five teenagers being overweight or obese.
There are severe consequences to being obese at a young age and one major concern is developing type 2 diabetes in adolescence as well as potentially leading to cancer and cardiovascular disease in later years.
The study assessed blood tests and physical activity annually from age 9 years to 16 years in 300 children. The researchers measured the insulin resistance (IR) of the 300 children – a forerunner for type 2 diabetes. It was found that physical activity provides great benefits to IR when the condition peaks at age 13 however it provides no benefit at age 16. Physical activity proved to be very effective for young adolescents in terms of IR but once the children move past this age IR levels tend to balance out.
A senior lecturer in Physical Activity and Health at the University of Exeter, Dr Brad Metcalf said "Insulin resistance rises dramatically from age 9 to 13 years, then falls to the same extent until age 16. 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."
Physical activity has many health benefits and could now possibly inhibit the development of type 2 diabetes in early-teens.
'Physical activity attenuates the mid-adolescent peak in insulin resistance but by late adolescence the effect is lost: a longitudinal study with annual measures from 9-16 years (EarlyBird 66)' by B. S. Metcalf, J. Hosking, W. E. Henley, A. N. Jeffery, M. Mostazir, L. D. Voss and T. J. Wilkin is published in the journal Diabetologia.
Irish Heart Foundation:
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