Taking Time Off From Exercise Is More Dangerous Than You Think

Taking Time Off From Exercise Is More Dangerous Than You Think

The star of the syndicated comic strip, Garfield, is a big, funny, lazy orange cat of the same name. In one installment, Garfield’s owner, Jon, tells him, “We’re going on a run.” In the next frame, the cat is still flat on his back, arms by his side. His thought bubble reads, “I’m going for a just-lie-here.”

Sometimes a just-lie-here is what’s needed. But research shows if you take a few extra days off from your regular exercising, you could be risking your health. For a study presented at the European Congress on Obesity, researchers had 28 healthy, physically active adults who usually get at least 10,000 steps a day, cut down their activity level by 80 percent. For two weeks, they got only around 1,500 steps daily—with no reduction in calorie intake. That sedentary time off produced measurable metabolic changes that put the participants at risk for diabetes and other chronic disease. They also lost muscle mass and added body fat, especially in the abdomen—a big risk factor for everything from cancer to heart disease.

So, don’t let circumstances stop you from staying active! If you usually swim, but can’t get to the pool, walk. Usually walk, but it’s too hot outside? Use the treadmill at the gym. Your goal: 10,000 steps or the equivalent daily (1 minute of activity equals about 100 steps), plus 20 minutes of aerobic activity three days a week, along with two to three 30-minute strength-building sessions and 40 jumps a day.

Medically reviewed in December 2019.

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