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Good aerobic fitness does not protect children against type 2 diabetes, staying active does


Physical activity, fitness and insulin resistance in children.Credit: Eero Haapala

Good aerobic fitness does not protect children against obesity-induced insulin resistance, which is a key risk factor for type 2 diabetes, according to a new Finnish study. However, more physical activity and less sedentary time have been associated with reduced insulin resistance in obese children as well. Posted in Medicine and science in sport and exercise, the results are based on the Study of Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) carried out at the University of Eastern Finland. The study involved researchers from the University of Eastern Finland, Jyväskylä University, Norwegian School of Sports Science, University of Cambridge and University of Exeter.

Good aerobic fitness does not protect against insulin resistance

It is a generally accepted idea that good aerobic fitness reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, and it is also believed to protect against other unwanted changes in glucose metabolism induced by obesity. However, this idea is based on studies whose methodology does not distinguish between the roles of aerobic capacity and body fat percentage as risk factors for insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

“Our study clearly shows that aerobic fitness is not associated with insulin resistance when body composition is taken into account correctly. Additionally, good aerobic fitness does not appear to protect against induced insulin resistance. obesity. It seems that the role of poor aerobic fitness as a risk factor for type 2 diabetes has been grossly exaggerated, ”says researcher Eero Haapala, PhD, of the Faculty of Sport and Sports Sciences. Health at the University of Jyväskylä Dr Haapala is also Assistant Professor of Pediatric Exercise Physiology at the University of Eastern Finland.

The development of insulin resistance can be prevented

Researchers found that more intense physical activity and less sedentary time were associated with reduced insulin resistance, regardless of aerobic fitness level and body fat percentage. Getting more physical activity and less sedentary time also protected obese children from developing insulin resistance.

“A key take-home message from our study is that more physical activity and less sedentary time play a key role in preventing type 2 diabetes from childhood. For obese children, this appears to be particularly important,” Dr. Haapala notes.

The study analyzed 452 children aged six to eight, exploring associations between their aerobic capacity, body fat percentage, physical activity, sedentary time, and insulin resistance. Aerobic capacity was assessed using a maximal exercise test on a bicycle ergometer and body fat percentage by DXA measurement. Physical activity and sedentary time were measured using a combined motion and heart rate sensor, and insulin resistance was assessed by measuring glucose and insulin levels from blood samples.


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