Exercise helps reduce insulin resistance in young teens

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by Barbara Hewitt on August 7, 2015

Exercise provides the greatest benefit to fight insulin resistance for youngsters aged 16 and under to help ward off type 2 diabetes later in life, a new study has found.

Insulin resistance leads to high blood sugar and it regarded as a precursor to type 2 diabetes so researchers are looking for ways to design more effective ways of targeting children aged nine to 16.

080715-kids-exercisingIt tends to peak at the age of 13 then falls until the age of 16 so scientists from the University of Exeter in England decided to look at how physical activity could help combat a rise in insulin resistance.

The researchers measured insulin resistance in 300 children every year from age nine to 16 to determine when and to what extent physical activity in children impacts on insulin resistance and other markers of metabolic health.

In this study, activity was measured objectively using accelerometers, electronic motion sensors, worn around the child’s waist and set to run continuously for seven days at each of the eight annual check times.

The results showed that the condition was 17% lower in the more active adolescents at age 13 independently of body fat levels, but this difference diminished progressively over the next three years and had disappeared completely by age 16, when insulin resistance levels were much lower.

Dr Brad Metcalf, a senior lecturer in physical activity and health at the University of Exeter, said the findings have implications for future actions designed to reduce the insulin resistance of children.

‘Insulin resistance rises dramatically from age nine 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,’ Metcalf explained.

‘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,’ he added.

Childhood obesity has increased in much of the industrialised world over the past two decades, with one in six children currently obese in the UK and USA. Metcalf said that this is of great concern because obesity appears to underlie much of the insulin resistance that leads to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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