Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Starting Young: Stronger Kids Have Lower Disease Risk As Adults

February 25, 2020


Our country as a serious, growing problem as 1 in 3 American adults can be classified as obese. These individuals are prone to numerous serious, but often preventable, diseases and conditions which place a drain on our economy, workforce, and healthcare system. Sadly the obesity rate is also affecting our nation’s children affecting approximately 15% of children aged 10-17 years old. Similar to adults, obesity rates vary state to state with the highest rates seen in Mississippi (25%) and the lowest in Utah. As expected, Colorado comes in at 10% placing us in the lowest 5 states for obesity. Many factors can be blamed for the rising obesity rates among children including nutritional habits, lack of organized activity, recess, and free play, as well as, increased access to sedentary technologies. A recent review of the evidence demonstrates how important childhood can be for future their health and wellness in adulthood.

The journal Sports Medicine reviewed the available evidence from mainly longitudinal studies to determine the impact of a child’s fitness on their future health in adulthood (Garcia-Hermoso et al. 2019). Authors included more than 21,000 children from 30 studies in their meta analysis and systematic review. They found a moderate to large effect between a child’s fitness and muscle mass and their future insulin resistance, triglyceride levels, bone mineral density, and cardiac risk. Thus an inverse relationship was noted in this large scale study between a child’s fitness and their future disease risk. Although this study’s design does not allow us to look into cause and effect it does point to the importance of early fitness in children. At minimum, kids exposed to fitness early in life may develop the healthy habits they need to become lifelong exercisers. As adults, we all have a role to play in the obesity epidemic facing our country.