According to a new study from scientists at the University of Liverpool, a measly two weeks without exercising regularly can lead to a significant loss in muscle.
The silver lining, is that the loss of fitness within two weeks of non-exercise is small, yet still statistically significant. A lack of physical exercise for more than two weeks however, can lead to potential changes that can increase risk of heart disease and diabetes.
The study involved a group of 28 people with an average age of 25. The participants weren't super-healthy gym bunnies but walked at least 10,000 steps a day, defined as 'moderate to vigorous activity', and had a 'healthy BMI'.
At the start of the study, researchers measured participants physical fitness, fat and muscle mass. Over the next two weeks, participants kept their diet the same, but they reduced their physical activity by 80% or more, dropping from around 2 hours 41 minutes a day to only 36 minutes.
At the end of the study, participants had gained fat, particularly around the stomach, and lost muscle. They also couldn't run for as long, and had higher cholesterol levels.
Lead author, Kelly Bowden-Davies emphasised that the reduced level of activity wasn't unusual in society.
They still went to work or university, or looked after their children.
So this is a typical example of what some individuals are doing in society
Thankfully, it didn't take too long for the participants health to return to normal. Co-author of the study Dan Cuthebertson said:
The effects were entirely reversible—so it’s fine if you’re fit and well and you go on holiday for two weeks and then you get right back to normal.
But the problem is that many people don’t reverse back to these levels of activity, and then perhaps the effects will accumulate.
The longer people are inactive, the harder it is to get back into shape.