Sometimes life just happens. Work schedules get hectic, we take time off for a vacation, we catch a seasonal cold and BAM, we easily miss our routine gym time for weeks on end. That’s okay, though… right?
Maybe not. New research from the Institute of Aging and Chronic Disease at the University of Liverpool reveals that it only takes two weeks of sedentary behavior for a young, healthy person to start losing muscle and develop fat around their organs.
The study recruited 28 healthy, physically active participants with an average age of 25 and required each of them to wear a SenseWear armband that measures physical activity. They completed comprehensive health exams, including measuring fat and muscle mass, mitochondrial function and physical fitness, at the beginning of the experiment and after the 14 days of reduced activity. During the “sedentary” period, participants decreased their activity amount by more than 80 percent, logging approximately 1,500 steps per day. Their dietary choices remained constant.
After the experimental two weeks, the changes observed were significant. Participants lost skeletal muscle mass and increased total body fat (the fat accumulation was located primarily around the midsection). Their cardiovascular fitness declined dramatically as well.
“What’s alarming about this study is that it was done in healthy volunteers,” said lead researcher Kelly Bowden-Davies. “They were not patients or overweight or had risks for type 2 diabetes. In 14 days we see small, but significant, changes in markers that predispose people to risk.”
That’s right, the effects observed in this study are also common risk factors for things like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even premature death. Luckily, after going back to an active lifestyle, all the changes were reversed and returned to normal in the participants within an additional two weeks. The negative impact of inactivity are remedied by increased activity levels — what a concept.
“Our day to day physical activity is key to abstaining from disease and health complications,” said study co-author Dr. Dan Cuthbertson. “People must avoid sitting for long periods of time.”
Well, you heard the man. Keep that daily step goal going even if it doesn’t involve you stepping into a gym anytime soon. Your life could depend on it.