Two-week holiday could make muscles waste away, study shows
A fortnight lying on a beach may seem like the perfect boost - but new research suggests it's enough to cause muscles to waste and fitness levels to plunge.
The study on healthy young adults found startling changes to muscle mass and metabolism could occur during a couple of weeks on holiday, or simply lazing around.
It warns that the changes could trigger an increased risk of developing chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and potentially even premature death.
Researchers from Liverpool University examined 28 fit, young adults, with an average age of 25 for the study. For a two-week period, they asked participants to cut their activity levels by 80 per cent, from 10,000 daily steps to just 1,500.
By the end of 14 days, the 20-somethings had lost almost a third of a kilo of lean muscle (0.8 pounds) – and saw their waistlines expand by almost half an inch (1cm).
There was also an increase in liver fat and an increase in bad cholesterol markers while overall, cardio-respiratory fitness levels also declined.
When the group returned to their previous fitness habits, the study also found, they were unable to return to shape within two weeks.
The research was presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Porto this week.
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," Cuthbertson 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.
"People have become obsessed with 10,000 steps a day and this research shows it's a good thing."
In Ireland, overweight and obesity rates have doubled in the past two decades, with just 40pc of Irish adults now of "a healthy weight", according to the Department of Health's Obesity Policy & Action Plan 2016-2025 (read the PDF here).
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.”
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.”