Just two weeks without exercise increases risk of serious disease

Spending 14 days as a couch potato reduces muscle mass, increases body fat and increases the risk of illness

Lazing around for a period of just two weeks increases the risk of developing serious diseases, including diabetes and heart disease, according to new research.

Researchers have discovered that just 14 days spent as a couch potato reduces muscle mass, increases body fat and increases the risk of developing chronic diseases.

Many fitness trackers recommend a target of at least 10,000 steps a day to begin increasing fitness levels.

The research – which has yet to be published – is being presented at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Portugal this week.

The authors of the study have warned that changing lifestyles have substantially reduced the amount of physical activity people undertaken compared to previous generations.

This falling level of exercise can lead to increased levels of obesity, poor metabolic health and accelerated musculoskeletal decline.

Lazy days

Undertaken at the University of Liverpool, the study included 28 healthy, active young people with an average age of 25 and a healthy body mass index (BMI).

The participants were subjected to comprehensive health checks and fitted with SenseWear armbands to measure physical activity.

They were asked to keep their activity by more than 80% to around 1500 steps per day – while keeping a dietary journal to ensure they were still eating the same amount of food.

Significant health concerns

Dr Dan Cuthberson, lead author of the study, said that after just 14 days there were small but significant reductions in fitness and muscle mass as well as increases in body fat.

“Such changes can lead to chronic metabolic disease and premature mortality,” he said. “The results emphasise the importance of remaining physically active - and highlight the dangerous consequences of continuous sedentary behaviour."

"Our day to day physical activity is key to abstaining from disease and health complications. People must avoid sitting for long periods of time."

The research found that changes in body fat tended to build up centrally – a major risk factor for chronic diseases.

Cardio-respiratory fitness levels were found to have declined sharply with participants unable to run for as long or as hard as they had been – while there was an increase in liver fat and bad cholesterol markers.

A substantial loss of skeleton muscle mass was also recorded.

Dr Cuthberson said that exercise does not need to be structured – with any physical activity, including walking, helping to stave off disease.

A study published in the British Journal for Sports Medicine (BJSM) last month, listed just 30 minutes of moderate activity three or more times a week as the most significant thing a person can do when it comes to reducing biological risk factors for sedentary adults.