The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) announced today that it has joined forces with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) to support World Diabetes Day on November 14. IHRSA is urging more than 2,400 health clubs worldwide to educate their members and local communities on the critical role exercise plays in preventing type 2 diabetes. Health clubs are encouraging parents to promote physical activity in their families to help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in children. November 14 marks the second United Nations-observed World Diabetes Day to call attention to diabetes, which is now a worldwide pandemic.
“The dramatic increase in type 2 diabetes in children is putting kids at risk for life-threatening health complications before they’ve even made it through elementary school,” says Joe Moore, IHRSA’s President and CEO. “We must act now to curb this deadly trend and take aggressive measures to ensure that children get adequate exercise and proper nutrition as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.”
To help spread the message about the preventive power of exercise in fighting type 2 diabetes, IHRSA has assembled a turnkey educational outreach program and materials for health clubs worldwide to use with their members, club visitors, and within their local communities. Some activities that IHRSA is suggesting to health clubs include hosting parent workshops on children and type 2 diabetes; creating play date networks for organized, active play sessions; hosting pediatrician-led discussions at their clubs on the benefits of exercise in preventing childhood obesity and diabetes; and hosting “Family Day” events. 
Many health experts say the increase in type 2 diabetes in children is linked to childhood obesity and is the result of inactivity and poor diet. Up to 85 percent of children with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese at the time of diagnosis.
Type 2 diabetes results when the body no longer processes sugar properly. Insulin, a hormone created in the pancreas, moves sugar from the blood into the cells, where it can be used for energy or stored for future use. Without insulin, the body cannot use the sugar. 
In people with type 2 diabetes, their bodies don’t properly respond to insulin, so their cells don’t get enough sugar — or glucose. Instead, glucose builds up in their blood. Over time, high blood glucose levels can seriously damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart. 
Diabetes typically cuts an average of eight years off a person’s life. Children and adolescents with type 2 diabetes must be forever vigilant against associated health risks such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, heart attack, chronic renal failure, limb-threatening neuropathy, blindness, and sudden death. What’s more, children and adolescents with type 2 diabetes may experience complications at younger ages than those who develop diabetes in adulthood. 
“Type 2 diabetes is a serious health concern that no parent ever wants to face,” Moore continues. “Luckily, there are steps parents can take to help protect their children against this growing epidemic. In fact, exercise is one of the best preventive measures there is.” 
Research clearly shows that exercise reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes in children. Up to 80 percent of type 2 diabetes in adults and children is preventable by adopting a healthy diet and increasing physical activity to national guidelines in order to maintain cardiovascular health and a healthy body weight. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend that children and adolescents get at least an hour of physical activity every day. Most of this time should be spent in moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise, and should include vigorous-intensity physical activity at least 3 days a week. Kids also need both muscle- and bone-strengthening physical activity at least 3 days a week. The Guidelines also address the fact that exercise is important to reduce the risk of heart disease in those who already have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Habits established in childhood often are kept for life, so helping kids start healthy habits early is extremely important.
Exercise helps prevent type 2 diabetes by helping the body use glucose for energy, keeping blood sugar at healthy levels. The contraction of muscles during exercise also forces blood glucose into the muscle cells where it can be used as energy, and it makes the muscle cells more receptive to taking in additional blood glucose. Too little physical activity, and too much sugar in the diet, can burden the pancreas, making it work harder to produce enough insulin to keep moving larger amounts of sugar.
“We know that exercise is the best form of prevention we have,“ says Moore. “Exercise is medicine. Even small amounts make a difference.” 
Staying alert to the signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes also is important, especially since it can go undiagnosed for a long time. Some children may have only mild symptoms, or no noticeable symptoms at all. Typically, a blood test is needed for an accurate diagnosis. When the warning signs of diabetes do appear, they can include frequent urination, excessive thirst, increased hunger, weight loss, tiredness, lack of interest and concentration, blurred vision, vomiting, and stomach pain, which often is mistaken for the flu. The mean age at diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in U.S. children is between 12 and 14 years, corresponding with puberty, but children as young as 8 have been diagnosed.
“World Diabetes Day offers the fitness industry a chance to save lives,” Moore concludes. “So we are strongly urging all our member clubs to take part in this worldwide effort. The future of the world’s children depends on what we do to help and protect their health today.” 

IHRSA ( is a not-for-profit trade association representing health and fitness facilities, gyms, spas, sports clubs, and suppliers worldwide. IHRSA is committed to taking a leadership role in advancing physical activity, which is critical to America's health and the battle against obesity and disease. IHRSA supports effective national initiatives to promote more active lifestyles for all Americans and is working to pass laws that will help affect societal changes toward a more fit America.


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