Strong Children Have Lower Risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease

Children with higher strength to BMI ratios were less likely to be at risk for diabetes and stroke

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) You don’t have to be a body builder to be healthy, but a new study says that children with strong muscles have a lower risk for some common diseases.

The study found that children with high strength and a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) exhibited multiple physical traits associated with good health.

The data revealed a significant link between lower strength and several common diseases.

"Consult with your doctor before beginning a new workout routine."

This study was led by Mark D. Peterson, PhD, MS, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

The research team looked at the health data of 670 boys and 751 girls between the ages of 10 and 12 including percent of body fat, blood sugar level and blood pressure.

The researchers wanted to look for a correlation between muscle strength and cardiometabolic diseases that include diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Each child’s hand strength was tested using a special measuring device and the results were then compared to the weight to height ratio, commonly called BMI.

"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," Dr. Peterson said in a press release.

The data showed that 42.2 percent of the children were overweight or obese based on the current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study showed that children with a higher strength to BMI ratio had a significantly lower risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

The data also showed that the stronger children had overall lower BMI, lower percent of body fat, smaller waist size and a higher level of physical fitness overall.

"The stronger you are relative to your body mass, the healthier you are," Peterson says. "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 authors concluded that activities that promote strength training should be included in any healthy weight control program as this study shows a clear correlation between strength to BMI ration and the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke in children.

The authors acknowledge that this study was limited by an inability to identify if low muscle strength is the cause of cardiometabolic diseases or if they cause the loss of muscle strength.

This study was first published March 31 in Pediatrics and was funded by Memorial Healthcare Foundation.

The authors made no disclosures.

Review Date: 
March 28, 2014
Last Updated:
March 31, 2014