We’ve officially hit the thick of winter: the days are shorter, the nights are darker and puffer vests are non-negotiable. But if you, like us, are partial to ditching your daily workout in favour of extra doona time, you might wanna listen up. Coz new research has found that taking prolonged breaks from exercise can wreak havoc on your health.
Researchers at the University of Liverpool in England asked 45 active, diabetes-free, metabolically healthy men and women to sit for more than three-and-a-half additional hours each day.
While the participants all routinely walked 10,000 steps each day, they were asked to cut this down to below 2,000 over a two-week period.
The researchers then rechecked their metabolisms and body compositions and then made them return to their former healthy habits for another fortnight, after which time the tests were repeated.
Shockingly, almost all participants developed what the scientists dubbed “metabolic derangements” during the time they spent sedentary. Their blood sugar levels increased, insulin sensitivity declined, cholesterol profiles became less healthy and they all lost muscle mass in their legs while gaining fat around their abdomens.
The good news? After the participants went back to their active lifestyles, most of these metabolic changes were reversed. However, for reasons unknown, a few of them never returned to the same level of exercise as before – and some had slight (but lasting) symptoms of insulin resistance.
There are definitely times when our bodies benefit from (and deserve) a few days off. But prolonged periods of time away from your usual routine isn’t necessarily any better for you than simply slowing down. Consistency is key, and we’re taking these findings as a timely reminder of the importance of daily movement – no matter what the weather is like outside.