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Exercise now, stave off diabetes later

June 19, 2009 | 12:30 pm

Skip exercise now, pay later -- that's the warning from a study that found that younger people who didn't exercise were more likely to develop diabetes in 20 years than those who stayed fit.

Jrgpw4nc Researchers examined data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study, a longitundinal study of 5,115 adults initially ages 18 to 30 that looked at lifestyle and how cardiovascular disease risk factors changed over time. The participants were given a treadmill test at the beginning of the study, then at year seven and 20. They were also tested for diabetes.

At the study's start, white men were the most fit, followed by black men, white women and black women. White and black men had the highest fasting glucose levels in the beginning, followed by white women and black women.

Body mass index was the strongest predictor of developing diabetes. And despite the fact that black men and white men started off on a fairly even BMI level at the beginning of the study, BMI was a bigger predictor of developing diabetes for black men. Researchers also found that the less fit people were, the higher the incidence of diabetes.

Via a release, lead author Mercedes Carnethon, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, said, "The overwhelming importance of a high BMI to the development of diabetes was somewhat unexpected, and leads us to think that activity levels need to be adequate not only to raise aerobic fitness, but also to maintain a healthy body weight. If two people have a similar level of fitness, the person with the higher BMI is more likely to develop diabetes."

So the next time your mother says, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," maybe you'll listen to her.

The study appears in the July issue of the journal Diabetes Care.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images