New research says that staying physically fit is the way to go for college students to steer clear of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
In a study of 564 male and female students, the authors tracked four biomarkers of metabolic risk (high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), triglycerides and blood glucose levels) in relation to body fat and physical fitness.
Researchers deemed body fat percentage above 23 percent in women and above 19 percent in men as higher than desirable and measured fitness based on performance on a 3-minute step test.
"Certain metabolic risk factors were closer to recommended levels in both male and female students whom we classified as fit, even if their body fat percentages were higher than desirable," says senior author Jennifer M. Sacheck, PhD, assistant professor at the Friedman School.
Being fit correlated with lower triglycerides and higher HDL, the healthy cholesterol, in women and lower blood glucose levels in men.
"Most of the participants had healthier body fat percentages than the average 18 or 19 year-old, yet nearly 25% demonstrated low levels of HDL, one-third demonstrated elevated LDL cholesterol levels, and 11% had high triglycerides, indicating it's not premature to work on reducing chronic disease risk as a college student," said Sachek.
The researchers also suggested that diet might be a factor in metabolic risk too and that students need to keep fit to reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease or Type 2 diabetes later in life.
The results are published in the June issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.