Dangers of a sedentary COVID-19 lockdown: Inactivity can take a toll on health in just two weeks. As the world digs in for the second wave of COVID-19, people also face a serious risk from reduced physical activity — especially older adults. Developing a plan to be physically active now will help you to stay strong and healthy through the long road ahead.
While most people are aware of the benefits of physical activity — increased muscle and strength, reduced risk of disease, better quality of life and a lower risk of death — we tend to be less aware of how damaging and expensive reduced physical activity can be.
The loss of muscle and strength as you get older (known as sarcopenia) is something with which we are all familiar. We have all heard older family members say, “I’m just not as strong as I used to be,” or “I just can’t do that anymore.” But did you know that inactivity can make muscle loss a whole lot worse?
Health effects of inactivity
Physical inactivity can be forced on a person by an acute event such as a broken arm or leg or becoming bed-bound due to illness. However, reduced physical activity, such as step reduction, is a long-term choice that brings about multiple negative health consequences.
Insulin resistance (a warning sign for the development of type 2 diabetes), reduced muscle mass, increased body fat and poor sleep quality are just some of the health concerns caused by physical inactivity. Physical inactivity is also a major contributor to poor mental health and social isolation, which can be particularly problematic for older adults.
The health effects of inactivity start piling up within days.
Research has shown that reducing daily steps to fewer than 1,500 — similar to the activity level of people who are housebound during this pandemic — for just two weeks can reduce an older person’s insulin sensitivity by as much as one-third. The same period of inactivity also led to individuals over age 65 losing as much as four per cent of their leg muscle.
To make matters worse, once an older individual loses muscle, it is much more difficult to restore. Even when the research subjects returned to their normal daily routines, they did not regain their lost muscle. Effectively, older individuals simply don’t possess the same ability to bounce back that younger people do. Regaining muscle requires deliberate effort. So, it truly is a case of use it or lose it.
Resistance is not futile
But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are some things you can do — resistance exercise and eating your protein — to keep and even build muscle, get stronger and maintain your health.
The most effective way to maintain the muscle you have is strength training, or resistance exercise, which, put simply, means performing work against an additional load. And it doesn’t have to be complicated.
The good news for those who may be put off by the sound of resistance exercise is that doing any exercise with a high degree of effort will help you to get stronger and prevent (at least some) muscle loss. If, for any reason, performing resistance exercise isn’t possible, simply adding a walk, a bike ride or some lower-intensity strength exercises such as Barre, yoga or Pilates to your daily routine can have significant physical and mental health benefits.
Protein and muscle
Of course, a healthy diet and avoiding overeating are also critical to staying healthy. Protein-rich foods are particularly important, since they make you feel fuller for longer and provide building blocks for your muscles.
Given how quickly inactivity and poor nutrition can sap your strength and your health, doing something now is the best way to avoid future issues.
It does not have to be EXTREME. Just CONSISTENT.
Ladies, consistency is key! Going to EXTREME measures to reach your health and fitness goals, fast, can sometimes work - but only for short periods of time and it's not sustainable. By spending multiple hours a day working out and making dramatic changes to your lifestyle, you may find yourself getting tired, feeling sore, and feeling very unmotivated - very quickly.
By taking small steps in the right direction and staying consistent with your workouts, you will find yourself feeling more motivated and energised. This type of approach will be more sustainable long term and you will be more likely to achieve your health and fitness goals.
Stay patient and trust the process.