We are becoming increasingly aware of the risks associated with being sedentary for too long. Not only can being inactive increase our risk of suffering from long-term health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, but it’s also a leading cause of early death at a population wide level.
What we are only just beginning to scratch the surface with, is how shorter periods of inactivity can impact upon our health and well-being.
A recent study looked at the effect two weeks of physical inactivity had on various markers of cardiovascular and metabolic health. Physically active individuals were recruited to take part in the study and were asked to reduce their daily level of physical activity. This led to an increased daily sedentary time of 1 hour 43 minutes on average. So, is it really possible for someone who leads an otherwise healthy and active lifestyle to still be at a higher risk of developing a long-term health condition simply because of a two-week holiday spent lounging by the poolside?
Using advanced imaging techniques, the researchers were able to determine blood vessel health, which is closely related to the risk of cardiovascular disease. Interestingly, the results showed that artery function declined during study, suggesting as little as two weeks of reduced activity can detrimentally impact the cardiovascular health, therefore increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease for an otherwise active individual. Measurements of other typical disease risk factors such as liver fat, total body fat and insulin sensitivity also appeared to show that general disease and all-cause mortality risk had increased as a result of the short period of inactivity.
So, what do these results actually mean? Well, the answer is simple, we must look to minimise the amount of time we spend being sedentary on a day to day basis and to do so, physical activity is the key. The part which is often overlooked is that you don’t necessarily need to ‘exercise’ to be physically active. Of course, regular structured exercise is hugely beneficial to our health, but the accumulation of movement obtained through general tasks associated with normal daily life is just as important. From getting out of bed in the morning, to making a cup of tea, to doing the washing up – it all counts! So, whilst it is important to make sure we do at least some form of activity during our holidays, remember that you can make the most of any movement made during routine tasks to break-up periods of inactivity and benefit your health in the long term.