Bad news for teens who are just a bit too skinny or chubby: not only may you need to contend with being teased and picked on, but a research published in BMJ has also found that teens with less muscle mass are more likely to die premature deaths than their more sculpted peers.
The boys who scored above average in muscle power were 20 to 35 percent less likely to die early from any cause. They were also 20 to 30 percent less likely to die by suicide, and 65 percent less likely to be diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder.
The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Granada in Spain, Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, and the University of Helsinki in Finland. The study involved over 1 million participants; all were 16- to 19-year-old conscripts in Sweden's military. At the start of the study, researchers asked the participants to perform various exercises, including leg curls and arm push-ups, so that the researchers could assess the boys' general level of fitness. Then the participants were tracked for 24 years afterwards.
During the study, 26,145 men, or 2.3 percent, died. The leading causes of death were accidental injury, suicide, heart disease, and stroke.
Obesity and cardiovascular illnesses are strongly linked with premature death, or death before the age of 55. However, even when researchers controlled for those conditions, the link between premature death and muscle power stayed.
Both thin and chubby boys fared worse than their more muscled peers if they had less muscle power. However, boys who were overweight were generally spared from premature death if they also had a great deal of muscle strength.
Experts stress that muscle building does not necessarily help you live longer. In fact, the researchers said that the study did not necessarily mean that exercise prolonged life, and noted that encouraging people to exercise with public health campaigns has been a challenge. Of course, physical activity has been universally shown to be good for a person's health and other studies have suggested that exercise does, in fact, lengthen a person's life.
"The benefits of being physically active at any age are well established with studies showing it can prevent children from developing diseases later on in life, as well as improving their concentration at school, their overall mental health and well-being," a spokeswoman for the British Heart Foundation said to BBC.