In this blog, we will talk about the importance of maintaining activity during COVID.
As more data comes out about the secondary impacts of the pandemic on people around the world, one trend that has been identified is an overall decrease in the amount of physical activity people are getting on a daily basis.
Data taken from step counting devices around the time of the initial shut-downs found an average reduction of about 27 percent fewer steps within the first 30 days after they were announced. The US in particular saw about a 15 percent drop in daily steps, but the numbers varied widely from state to state which has been attributed to things like adherence to guidelines and access to open space.
While it may not seem like a huge drop in total numbers overall, another study points out that moderate drops in daily steps has been associated with negative health impacts in as few as 5 to 14 days. In particular, they cite increases in something called ectopic fat; which is when fat get stored outside of typical cells, ending up in things like muscle, vascular, and organ tissue. When stored in these places, fat disrupts the normal function of the tissue which can lead to a variety of health issues.
In addition, the paper points out that reduction in activity also increases the amount of insulin circulating in the blood, which leads to a diabetic-like state if not a gradual slide into diabetes itself. They also note decreases in cardiorespiratory fitness and overall levels of inflammation.
They go on to point out that the good thing about all this is that these effects are reversible, even with modest increases of low-intensity activities like walking or cycling. Though they do mention that the reversal can take longer, or even be incomplete in people who are chronically ill and the elderly.
Specifically, it is noted that a 15 minute walk after eating significantly reduces the amount of glucose circulating in the blood, and that 6 min of stari climbing/descending has a similar effect. They note that aerobic training as simple as 3, 10 minute bouts of brisk walking each day significanty reduces levels of unhealthy fats in the blood as well; and that any single bout of activity has a positive impact on blood pressure.
The paper also hightlights the positive impacts that activity has on the immune system. The atuthors note that a systemic review of literature on the topic found that a single high-intensity training session of 30-60 minutes increased immune markers circulating in the blood.
It concludes by highlighting that even low to moderate volume and intensity activity as been demonstrated to have positive impacts on mental health, sleep, thinking, and well being.
The bottom line is that even modest levels in activity can have a significant positive impact on our overall health. It is also important to consider how quickly the negative health impacts of decreases in activity have. Most importantly is that every little bit counts. If the notion that full on structured exercise is the only way to get the benefits of movement is something that has held you back, then I hope this dispells that for you.
It is clear to see that even simple short bouts of walking alone can have a major impact. From there you can build into functional body weight movements. Ideally you build yourself up to where you are eventually meeting WHO activity guidelines which recommend 150 minutes of moderate or 70 minutes of intense exercises, with at least two strength training sessions per week for adults.
The methodology is simple, but not always easy. The benefits are life-altering. Start moving again today!
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