Forget jumping jacks: kids who strength train have lower risk of diabetes

Parents and educators are taking the childhood obesity epidemic more seriously than ever before – physical fitness has become a pressing priority in schools across the country, especially in the last several years of the Obama administration.

Yet conventional wisdom still holds that cardio activities like running or sports are enough to keep kids healthy, along with a sensible diet. And while that may be true for some children, new research suggests kids who regularly do strength-training exercises have a lower risk of developing conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Strength may be more important than BMI

Paul Gordon, chairman of the health, human performance and recreation department at Baylor University, found strength training provided more protective benefits for kids than just a healthy diet combined with cardio exercises.

For the study, about 1,400 children between the ages of 10 and 12 were analyzed for blood pressure, fasting glucose levels, body fat, and other health markers. These markers were then compared against a child's average strength grip, which was measured with a device called a dynamometer.

Results showed children who had a better strength grip also had lower cardiometabolic risk factors. This correlation held true even if a child had a higher BMI or engaged in less daily physical activity than his or her peers.

“Our data would suggest that even when you control for body mass, kids who are stronger are going to have lower risk (for diabetes and heart diseases),” Gordon said.

Build muscle, burn fat

As is the case for adults, building muscle helps to assist with glucose metabolism, Gordon said. A higher muscle-to-fat ratio can also help with blood flow and circulation, as well as improved insulin sensitivity.

Conditioning exercises may be standard practice for kids that are part of sports teams, but implementing strength training activities like push-ups, sit-ups, or weight-training exercises during regular PE hours can be helpful for the less active children, Gordon said - especially since children are developing diabetes and heart conditions earlier than ever before.

“We’re not necessarily advocating in young children that they should start pumping iron, by any means,” he said. “But there’s a tendency in our nation for physical education to be removed in our schools, and our data would suggest that having children engaged in these strengthening activities through play, through climbing activities or whatever that can engage their muscles is very beneficial.”

The study is published in the American Academy of Pediatrics journal.

Source: Waco Tribune

Photo credit: chrisroll/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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