Tempted to hit pause on your daily routine for a little recharge? You might want to rethink that strategy: Just two weeks of drastically reducing your physical activity can hurt your body, according to preliminary research presented at the European Congress on Obesity.
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In the study, researchers recruited 28 physically active young adults who averaged at least 10 000 steps per day, but didn’t really exercise otherwise. They told the participants to cut their daily step count by 80%, or to about 1 500 steps per day.
After two weeks, the scientists noticed some pretty significant changes in the participants’ body compositions, even though they didn’t eat any differently during that time.
They gained about half a kilogram in total body weight, lost about 360 grams of muscle mass, and performed worse on a test of cardio-respiratory fitness.
They also saw increases in waist size, central fat percentage, and triglyceride levels, or the amount of fat in their blood.
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Central fat is related to visceral fat, the kind deep within your abdominal cavity around vital organs like your liver and pancreas. This kind of fat is more metabolically harmful, and can lead put you at risk of heart disease and diabetes, says study author Daniel Cuthbertson, Ph.D., of the University of Liverpool.
Decreases in muscle mass can also raise your diabetes risk, too. It can make you become less sensitive to insulin, he says – meaning that your body would need more and more of the hormone to keep its blood sugar levels in check.
While the effects of the two-week study don’t seem that major, they’re likely to be compounded if your reduction in activity continues long-term, says Cuthbertson. It’s similar to starting a sedentary desk job, where you stay seated all day, commute by car, and don’t get any other exercise throughout the day, either.
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It’s also impossible to say whether the effects of inactivity would be the same for guys who lifted or exercised regularly and then drastically cut their activity levels. Higher baseline levels of muscle may protect against some of the decline, though it’s likely they’d still see some detriment – but a separate study looking specifically at that group would need to be done to dig deeper into it, he says.
Article originally published on menshealth.com
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