Decrease in Exercise Can Affect Vascular Health

Even a few days of physical inactivity can lead to vascular dysfunction in even young, healthy people, according to a new study.

Paul Fadel, associate professor of medical pharmacology and physiology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, and John Thyfault, associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology, also found that the vascular dysfunction induced by five days of inactivity requires more than one day of returning to physical activity and at least 10,000 steps a day to improve.

“We know the negative consequences from not engaging in physical activity can be reversed,” said Fadel. “There is much data to indicate that at any stage of a disease, and at any time in your life, you can get active and prolong your life. However, we found that skipping just five days of physical activity causes damage to blood vessels in the legs that can take a prolonged period of time to repair.”

“Inactivity is typically going to lead to people being overweight and obese,” said Fadel. “The next step after that is insulin resistance which leads to Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

In their study, the researchers looked at the early effects on blood vessels when someone drops from high daily physical activity – 10,000 or more steps per day – to fewer than 5,000 steps per day. Although 10,000 steps is the recommendation from the U.S. Surgeon General, 5,000 steps is the national daily average.

A university news release said that the researchers found going from high to low levels of daily physical activity for just five days decreases the function of the inner lining of the blood vessels in the legs.

“The best treatment is to become more active, and our research lends proof to that concept,” Fadel said. “If you do not realize how harmful sitting around all day and not doing any activity is to your health, this proves it.”

“The impairment we saw in just five days was quite striking,” Fadel said. “It shows just how susceptible the vascular system is to physical inactivity.”

The research was published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

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