Decrease in exercise puts young adults at risk of developing disease

25 Oct 2021

Cardiometabolic health is found to worsen in the transition from late adolescence to early adulthood, a University of Queensland study has found.

Dr Gregore Iven Mielke from UQ’s School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences said it was especially evident in participants with low or decreased levels of physical activity.

“Cardiometabolic health represents the overall status of your health in terms of body fat, blood pressure and blood levels of glucose and cholesterol,” Dr Mielke said.

“The higher these levels are, the more likely you are to develop serious disease like diabetes, hypertensions or heart disease down the track.

“Our findings show that accumulation of daily activities that make you ‘huff and puff’- which may include dog walking, running to catch your bus or structured organised sport- are extremely important at the age of 18 to help reduce the risk of developing these diseases.”

The study is the first one to date to investigate the link between moderate-to vigorous physical activity and cardiometabolic health in the transition from the age of 18 to 22.  

On average, the total minutes in physical activity decreased in both men and women with only one in five participants showing an increase.

Dr Mielke said this was a particularly sensitive age period, where critical changes in health are found to occur.

“We know that chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes emerge during mid to late adulthood, and their risk factors tend to cluster during adolescence and track into adulthood,” Dr Mielke said.

“Overall, our study reinforced the importance of physical activity, as the number one way to counter significant health issues later in life.

“Current guidelines recommend adults should target 150-300 minutes of physical activity per week- but at the end of the day, anything is better than nothing.”

The study analysed data of people born in 1993 in the city of Pelotas, Brazil and can be used to develop strategies to improve levels of physical activity in young adults.

More information on the study can be found in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal.

Media contact: Dr Gregore Iven Mielke; UQ Communications Bridget Druery, +61 7 3366 3037