The purpose of this study was to determine the gender-specific independent association between muscular strength and cardiometabolic risk clustering in a large cohort (n = 1421) of children.
Principal component analysis was used to determine the pattern of risk clustering and to derive a continuous aggregate score (MetScore) from various cardiometabolic risk components: percent body fat (%BF), fasting glucose, blood pressure, plasma triglycerides levels, and HDL-cholesterol. Gender-stratified risk and MetScore were assessed by using general linear models and logistic regression for differences between strength tertiles, as well as independent associations with age, BMI, estimated cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), physical activity, and muscular strength (normalized for body mass).
In both boys (n = 670) and girls (n = 751), there were significant differences in cardiometabolic profiles across strength tertiles, such that stronger adolescents had lower overall risk. Age, BMI, cardiorespiratory fitness, physical activity participation, and strength were all individually correlated with multiple risk components, as well as the overall MetScore. However, in the adjusted model, only BMI (β = 0.30), physical inactivity (β = 0.30), and normalized strength capacity (β = –1.5) emerged as significant (P < .05) predictors of MetScore. %BF was the strongest loading coefficient within the principal component analysis–derived MetScore outcome.
Normalized strength is independently associated with lower cardiometabolic risk in boys and girls. Moreover, %BF was associated with all cardiometabolic risk factors and carried the strongest loading coefficient. These findings bolster the importance of early strength acquisition and healthy body composition in childhood.