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Brawny Teens Less Likely to Develop Diabetes, Heart Disease

Update Date: Mar 31, 2014 06:34 PM EDT

Having stronger muscles in teen years may lower a person's risk of heart disease and diabetes, according to a new study.

After examining the influence of muscle strength in sixth grade boys and girls, researchers found that stronger children have lower body mass index, lower percent body fat, smaller waist circumferences and higher fitness levels.

After analyzing more than 1,400 children between the ages of 10 and 12, researchers found that children with greater strength-to-body-mass ratios - or pound-for-pound strength capacities were significantly less likely to develop heart disease and diabetes.

"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," 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, said in a news release.

Researchers said the latest study is the first to show a strong link between strength capacity and a lower chance of having diabetes, heart disease or stroke (cardiometabolic risk) in adolescents. The findings held true even after accounting for the influence of BMI, physical activity participation, and cardiorespiratory fitness.

"The stronger you are relative to your body mass, the healthier you are," Peterson explained. "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."

The findings are published in the journal Pediatrics.

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