Just two weeks of inactivity can increase a healthy person’s risk of chronic diseases and even premature death, a new study warns.
Desk jobs and screen obsession have driven up the rates of inactivity worldwide – contributing to the rise in obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Despite that, many of us do try our best to stay fit and healthy by exercising after work, walking instead of taking the train, and eating well.
But experts warn that your efforts are futile unless you keep it up all the time – even during your holidays.
Just 14 days of lounging around on a beach affects your muscle mass and produces metabolic changes that drastically affect your heart health, according to a new study by the University of Liverpool.
The study included 28 healthy, physically active people with a mean age of 25 years and a mean BMI of 25 kg/m2.
All of the subjects wore a SenseWear armband to measure their physical activity. A dietary journal was completed to ensure no changes to food intake throughout the intervention.
They also had comprehensive health checks including fat and muscle mass, ability to recover from exercise, and physical fitness.
Assessments were done at the start of the study and after a 14-day step reduction protocol which reduced participants’ activity by more than 80 percent – from around 10,000 steps per day to around 1,500 steps per day.
They found that this change meant that the participants went from exercising 161 minutes a day to just 36 minutes a day.
At the same time, the amount of time they spent sitting doing nothing increased by an average of 129 minutes.
Following the period of inactivity, significant changes in body composition were observed, including loss of skeletal muscle mass and increases in total body fat.
The changes in body fat tended to accumulate centrally, which is a major risk factor for developing chronic diseases.
Overall, cardio-respiratory fitness levels declined sharply and participants were unable to run for as long or at the same intensity as previously.
A substantial loss in skeletal muscle mass was also noted, with a reduction in both total (whole body) lean mass (average loss 0.36kg) and leg lean mass (average loss 0.21kg).
Lead author Dr Dan Cuthbertson said: ‘In a group of physically active, healthy young individuals that met the recommended physical activity guidelines, just 14 days of increased sedentary behaviour resulted in small but significant reductions in fitness that were accompanied by reductions in muscle mass and increases in body fat.
‘Such changes can lead to chronic metabolic disease and premature mortality. The results emphasise the importance of remaining physically active, and highlight the dangerous consequences of continuous sedentary behaviour.’
He adds: ‘Our day to day physical activity is key to abstaining from disease and health complications. People must avoid sitting for long periods of time.’