Two week holiday could be the death of you: study shows lazy break makes muscles waste away

17 May

Lead researcher 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. 

He said people who do not exercise risk obesity and illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes.

“The take-home message is two-fold,” he said. “If you do formal exercise, it may not be enough and keeping active as part of your daily life is important.

“And for those who don’t exercise, avoiding prolonged sitting and increasing your daily step counts has clear health benefits.

“It does appear that there is something in this idea of 10,000 steps a day being good for you.

“People have become obsessed with 10,000 steps a day and this research shows it’s a good thing.”

NHS guidance states adults should do 150 minutes of activity a week.

But the vast majority of adults fail to meet this target.

And more than a quarter of Britons fail to do even 30 minutes of activity a week, according to Sport England.

Dr Cuthbertson added: “Our day to day physical activity is key to abstaining from disease and health complications. People must avoid sitting for long periods of time.”

Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said millions of Britons needed to overhaul their lifestyle habits.

“Yet again the science is telling us that physical activity should not, and must not, be missed,” he said, warning that ill-health in later life would be a “certainty” for those with couch potato habits.

Exercising should be a regular part of the day “like brushing your teeth,” he said.

“Those who fail to exercise ignore activity at their peril: sarcopenia, serious muscle wasting, and obesity may combine to catch up with them “. 

Steven Ward, chief executive of fitness organisation ukactive said: “Physical inactivity is society’s silent killer and even short bouts of being sedentary can lead to deadly diseases.

 “That’s why it’s so important for us to build movement into all aspects of our lives – commuting, working and at play – to reap the myriad benefits of an active lifestyle.

 “We know from our own ukactive research that lazy summer holidays wreak havoc on our children’s health, so it’s vital that families stay active together at this time of year to ward off unhealthy habits.”

Dr Emily Burns, research communications manager at Diabetes UK, which part-funded the study, said: “We know that being physically inactive can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, and while we need to wait for the full results, this research suggests that changes inside the body could start after only two weeks of inactivity.

“We can all find ways to include physical activity in our daily life – even walking to work or using stairs.”

Sarah James, Sports Nutritionist and Health Information Manager at World Cancer Research Fund, said: “Fitting more exercise into each day, whether that be cycling to work or taking the stairs, can make a huge impact on your risk of several serious diseases, including some of the most common cancers.

“Being physically active can directly help prevent several cancers, including breast and bowel cancers. Having an active lifestyle is also vital for maintaining a healthy weight, which can in turn reduce your risk of 11 common cancers.”

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