Some teen couch potatoes are showing signs of metabolic syndrome by the age of seventeen. According to a study published in Dynamic Medicine by Robert McMurray, Ph.D., and colleagues, these same teens showed poor levels of aerobic fitness during the ages of 7 to 10. According to Dr. McMurray, “This is the first study to examine the importance of childhood fitness levels on your metabolism as a teenager… Previously we didn’t know if low fitness levels were an influence. It’s obvious now that there is a link and this is something which we need to pay attention to by encouraging our kids to keep fit, or suffer the consequences later in life.” The study collected data from 2,200 children in North Carolina ages 7 to 10 and then, years later, parallel data from teenagers ages 14 to 17. 4.6% of the teenage sample was found to have several signs of metabolic syndrome. The study measured habitual activity, aerobic fitness, lipids, BMI, and blood pressure. The following is an excerpt of an article from Medpage Today that reviews the study:
But, the study found, those teens had already shown lower fitness levels and other signs of trouble ahead when they were children. Specifically, on average:
– They already had a higher body mass index, systolic blood pressure, and total cholesterol than the children who would not go on to develop metabolic syndrome risk factors, differences that were significant at P<0.04.
– They also had lower physical activity scores by self-report and aerobic fitness as measured by VO2max on a cycle ergometry test. Again the differences were significant at P<0.04.
– Absolute body mass was higher, but not significantly so, although body fat percentage was significantly higher (at P<0.04).
Seven years later, the group with metabolic syndrome risk factors had higher body mass, body mass index, body fat, systolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose than the other teens, as well as lower HDL cholesterol, physical activity levels, and aerobic fitness. The differences were significant at P<0.002.
Pastoral Action Point: Fortunately, churches are typically connected with the community’s youth and serve as a wonderful platform for discussion of a healthy lifestyle. In the age of gaming consoles, Internet, TV, and like sedentary activities, the message of physical activity and proper diet is timely and could prevent early onset of metabolic syndrome.