Don’t Stop Now—Daily Exercise Crucial for Vascular Health
I’ve always emphasized the importance of regular exercise. Even a little activity is better than none. Some of that advice is inspired by recent findings indicating that the very “act” of sitting is an independent risk factor for a host of diseases. "We know the negative consequences from not engaging in physical activity can be reversed," said Paul Fadel, associate professor of medical pharmacology and physiology at University of Missouri School of Medicine. “…At any stage of a disease, and at any time in your life, you can get active and prolong your life,” he added.
Being sedentary is undeniably a ticket to poor health. Sedentary people are more likely to develop diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and to die from any cause. It’s even been linked to a higher risk of developing cancer.
Now new research has shown that even healthy young people who stop running for a few days can experience measurable changes in the blood vessels in their legs as a result. “…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,” said Fadel. Tellingly, the changes occur in the endothelium; the delicate specialized tissue that lines the interior surface of blood vessels. It it here, within the endothelium, that atherosclerosis begins. Atherosclerosis, also called “hardening of the arteries,” is a condition that develops over time. It can eventually lead to cardiovascular disease, including stroke and heart attack.
It’s amazing to think that it can all start in the blood vessel linings after just a day or two of sedentary behavior. The takeaway message from the new research is this: diligently engaging in daily physical activity is utterly crucial for health. Just as a rolling stone gathers no moss, think of your body as a clean, shiny stone. As long as it’s moving all will be well. But come to rest, and the moss starts growing quickly, bogging you down and making it all the harder to start moving again.
In the study, conducted at the University of Missouri, healthy young people went from taking 10,000 steps daily to less than 5,000 steps a day. Although 5,000 steps daily is near the national average, according to the U.S. Surgeon General, it’s only about half the number of steps needed to prevent diseases associated with inactivity. Shockingly, within just five days of relative inactivity, investigators were able to detect changes to the endothelium in subjects’ leg blood vessels. "The impairment we saw in just five days was quite striking," said Paul Fadel. "It shows just how susceptible the vascular system is to physical inactivity."
“These studies are proof we need to get people to understand their activity every day plays a role in their health, and that their health is not simply a matter of body weight and how they look in the mirror,” said Fadel. I couldn’t agree more. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get up and move!
Leryn J Reynolds, Daniel P Credeur, Seth W Holwerda, Heather J Leidy, Paul J Fadel, John P Thyfault. Acute Inactivity Impairs Glycemic Control but Not Blood Flow to Glucose Ingestion. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000508