Just two weeks of inactivity increases risk of developing type 2 diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on May 18, 2017

Holidays and time off are for relaxing but new research suggests that if you spend a two-week vacation being a couch potato then you could increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Just two weeks if inactivity in young healthy people can reduce muscle mass and produce metabolic changes that can lead to an increased risk of developing a chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes, new research has found.

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The team of scientist from the University of Liverpool in the UK also found that such inactivity can also increase the risk of heart disease and potentially premature death.

They point out that factors relating to work, travel and the domestic environment in the 21st century have substantially reduced current physical activity levels when compared to our ancestors. They say that habitually reduced levels of physical activity are an independent risk factor for obesity, poor metabolic health and accelerated musculoskeletal decline.

Previous research has focused on increasing habitual physical activity as an alternative to structured exercise, yet little is known about the consequences of decreasing habitual physical activity. In this study, the researchers investigated the risk factors for developing disease after 14 days of physical inactivity.

The study included 28 healthy, physically active people taking an average of 10,000 steps per day with a mean age of 25 years and a mean BMI of 25 kg/m2. All of the subjects wore a SenseWear armband to measure physical activity.

They also had comprehensive health checks including fat and muscle mass, mitochondrial function, to check their ability regulate their energy and recover from exercise, and physical fitness.

Assessments were done at the start of the study and after a 14-day step reduction protocol which reduced participants’ activity by more than 80% to around 1,500 steps per day. A dietary journal was completed to ensure no changes to food intake throughout the intervention.

Analyses showed that the step reduction protocol reduced moderate to vigorous activity from a daily average of 161 minutes to 36 minutes, an average reduction of 125 minutes. At the same time, daily sedentary time increased by an average of 129 minutes.

Following the period of inactivity, significant changes in body composition were observed, including loss of skeletal muscle mass and increases in total body fat. The changes in body fat tended to accumulate centrally, which is a major risk factor for developing chronic diseases.

Overall, cardio-respiratory fitness levels declined sharply and participants were unable to run for as long or at the same intensity as previously. A substantial loss in skeletal muscle mass was also noted, with a reduction in both total lean mass, with an average loss 0.36kg, and leg lean mass with an average loss 0.21kg. Mitochondrial function also declined but this was not statistically significant.

‘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,’ said Dr Dan Cuthbertson, from the University’s Institute of Aging and Chronic Disease, who led the research .

‘Such changes can lead to chronic metabolic disease and premature mortality. The results emphasise the importance of remaining physically active, and highlight the dangerous consequences of continuous sedentary behaviour,’ he explained.

‘Our day to day physical activity is key to abstaining from disease and health complications. People must avoid sitting for long periods of time,’ he added.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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