Can a Two Week Vacation Ruin Your Health?

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A person may exercise daily, eat healthy foods, and maintain an active lifestyle, but just two short weeks can change everything. According to a new study from the University of Liverpool, just two weeks of inactivity — such as a two week vacation — can lead to a dramatic increase in the risk of chronic diseases.

Walking daily, exercise, and physical fitness are strongly linked to reduced abdominal fat and less risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other illnesses.

Courtesy: Michel Curi/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

However, even in healthy individuals that do stay active during the day, taking a break for 14 days can dramatically change metabolic processes and undo the good that their normal routine had created for them.

The University of Liverpool brought 28 individuals into the study to examine what changes may occur when their normal routine of activity was disrupted for 14 days, simulating what it would be like it they took a vacation.

The average age of the participants was 25 years old, and each person exercised an average of 161 minutes per day.

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In order to simulate what it would be like on vacation and lounging at the beach for 14 days, the researchers brought the activity level of the participants down to only 36 minutes per day. Instead of taking 10,000 steps per day like they were used to, they were only taking 1,500 steps per day. The time they spent sitting down dramatically increased as a result, with an average of 129 minutes of sitting per day for each person.

Subjects were tested at the onset of the study and again after 14 days. The results were far more dramatic than the researchers expected. The participants, healthy at the beginning of the study, had increased their risk for chronic disease, and their skeletal muscle mass showed a sharp decrease. Their body fat also went up, particularly around the abdominal area, which is directly linked to cardiovascular disease.

Courtesy: Josh Meek/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

“The take-home message is two-fold,” said Dan Cuthbertson, lead researcher of the study. “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.”

Cuthbertson applauds the fitness tracker phenomenon as a way of encouraging people to stay active during the day and prevent the risks that arise with a sedentary lifestyle, as seen in this study.

“Our day to day physical activity is key to abstaining from disease and health complications. People must avoid sitting for long periods of time,” he added.

These findings were presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Porto, Portugal.

Related: Sitting Too Much Can Speed up the Aging Process

Marissa DiPietro

Marissa is a health and fitness writer from the Tampa Bay area. In addition to researching the latest trending topics, she enjoys instructing kickboxing classes and posting incessantly to her Instagram account.