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A new study by the University of Michigan Medical School found adolescents with stronger muscles have a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes. Such children also have lower body mass index (BMI) and smaller waists and are in better shape overall.
Researchers examined data from over 1,400 children ages 10 to 12, including their percent body fat, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, glucose level and triglycerides. The strongest among them had the lowest risk for diabetes and heart disease. Research was based on data from the Cardiovascular Health Intervention Program (CHIP), which studied sixth graders in 17 mid-area Michigan schools from 2005 to 2008.
"It's a widely-held belief that BMI, sedentary behaviors and low cardiovascular fitness levels are linked to diabetes, heart disease and stroke, but our findings suggest muscle strength possibly may play an equally important role in cardiometabolic health in children," said lead author Mark D. Peterson, Ph.D, M.S., research assistant professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Michigan Medical School.
Participant strength was tested using a standardized hand grip assessment. Cardiorespiratory fitness was also examined.
"The stronger you are relative to your body mass, the healthier you are," Peterson noted. "Exercise, sports, and even recreational activity that supports early muscular strength acquisition, should complement traditional weight loss interventions among children and teens in order to reduce risks of serious diseases throughout adolescence."
This is the first study to demonstrate a link between strength and reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes in adolescents. A Swedish study from 2012 found high muscular strength in adolescence was associated with a 20-35% lower risk of premature mortality -- all-cause or due to cardiovascular disease.
The new study was published in the journal Pediatrics.