Fighting Diabetes in Children Through Physical Activity
November is American Diabetes Month, and being such, it’s a great time to raise awareness about the serious nature of diabetes in this country. A common misconception about diabetes is that is only affects adults. However, more and more children are being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, with children being the fastest growing group of new Type 2 Diabetes cases. All of this sounds, and is, distressing news to hear as parents and people who have children we love and care about, yet there is great news that this disease can often be prevented through the lifestyle choices that each person makes.
Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes
An unhealthy diet is a large risk factor for developing Type 2 Diabetes. A research study, published in the July 28 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, was conducted to compare the risk of diabetes on women who drank soft drinks and sugar-based fruit drinks against women who drank non-sugar-based juices. The results were alarming: there was a 24% increase in diabetes risk to the women that drank 2 or more soft drinks per day, and a whopping 31% increase in diabetes risk for women who drank 2 or more fruit drinks per day! That’s an alarming finding knowing how many soft drinks and fruit drinks are consumed by people I care about!
Being overweight or obese is another large risk factor for developing Type 2 Diabetes. The more fatty tissue that a child has, the more resistant their cells become to insulin. As mentioned above, a healthy diet is an important factor in diabetes prevention. If a child’s weight is at an unhealthy number, having a proper nutritional diet is a key factor in the equation to get them to a weight that doesn’t put them in danger of developing diabetes.
A third risk factor for developing Type 2 Diabetes is inactivity. Physical activity is just another way to make sure that a child’s weight is at a healthy number. When children are active, their glucose can be used by their body as an energy source, and a because there is less fatty tissue, their cells are much more responsive to insulin.
Additional factors that can lead to Type 2 Diabetes that aren’t controllable are family history, race, and gender.
The Good News: Diabetes Prevention
The good news is that there are many ways to try and prevent the development of Type 2 Diabetes, particularly in children if caught early enough. Again, a healthy and nutritious diet is good for anyone, but especially for children as we try to prevent their development of diabetes. There are many types of physical activity that your child can choose from. You can try one or more and see what type of exercise they most enjoy. Helping them engage in fun physical activities ensures that they will stick with it. Once they begin exercising regularly, it is a valuable habit that can stay with them for life. Kids who engage in regular physical exercise are healthier, happier, with more energy and zest for life.
Resistance Training: Strength training does not necessarily involve lifting weights. It can be any activity that forces the muscles to resist, which encourages muscle development and strength. You could take advantage of a local gym, your child’s workout equipment, or buy some simple weights like a set of dumbbells for working out at home. Just be sure that your child warms up before exercising and stretches as to prevent any injuries. The goal is not to create the next Arnold Schwarzenegger but to build a reasonable amount of muscle to burn extra calories – and because muscle burns calories even when at rest, a child will lost excess weight even after their workout has ended. Combined with strong nutritional support, this helps keep their weight under control and minimizes their chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
Yoga: Yoga is another great way to help your child maintain their weight and reduce their susceptibility to Type 2 Diabetes. In addition to weight control, yoga helps with joint health, balance and flexibility. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Seth Greenky states that regular physical exercise, such as yoga, is critical to ensuring healthy bones, which is paramount in childhood physical development. Studies have also shown that yoga helps with mood, reducing feelings of depression and anxiety, and is a great way to reduce stress. One great thing about yoga as a form of exercise for your child is that it tends to be low-impact in nature. So if your child is already overweight, yoga will not harm their joint health, and even if they are not overweight, it offers another heatlhy alternative to the more-strenuous activity of strength training.
Carolyn Fallon is a 20-something year old with a passion for life, fitness and overall well being. She is an avid spinner, healthy cooking enthusiast and lover of life. Check out Carolyn’s blog at http://fullonfit.blogspot.com!