CHICAGO, June 18 (UPI) -- Young adults ages 18-30 with low aerobic fitness are two to three times more likely than fit adults to develop diabetes in 20 years, U.S. researchers say.
Lead author Mercedes Carnethon of Northwestern's Feinberg School in Chicago says the study also shows young women and young African-Americans are less aerobically fit than men and white adults in the same age group -- placing a larger number of these population subgroups at risk for diabetes.
"These young adults are setting the stage for chronic disease in middle age by not being physically active and fit," Carnethon says in a statement. "People who have low fitness in their late teens and 20s tend to stay the same later in life or even get worse. Not many climb out of that category."
In the study, the most important predictor of who will develop diabetes is the participants' body mass index, a measure of the body's fat content.
Carnethon stresses that unfit young adults can avoid a future with diabetes by exercising and losing weight.
"Improving your fitness through physical activity is one way you can modify your body fat," Carnethon says. "Research shows that combining regular physical activity with a carefully balanced diet can help most people maintain a healthy body weight."
The study is scheduled to be published in the July issue of Diabetes Care.