Missouri Researchers Tie Physical Activity to Vascular Health

Missouri Researchers Tie Physical Activity to Vascular Health
  • Opening Intro -

    Most people understand that physical inactivity is not good. Indeed, individuals that regularly engage in exercise are in better health than those that do not.

    Now, researchers from the University of Missouri School of Medicine have found that even going without exercise for a few days can also adversely affect personal health.


Specifically, Missouri researchers “found that reducing daily physical activity for even a few days leads to decreases in the function of the inner lining of blood vessels in the legs of young, healthy subjects causing vascular dysfunction that can have prolonged effects.”

Prolonged Physical Inactivity

If you miss exercising for just five days it will take more than one day of physical activity — specifically taking at least 10,000 steps a day — to see improvements. Said Paul Fadel, associate professor of medical pharmacology and physiology, “we know the negative consequences for not engaging in physical activity can be reversed.” Fadel added, “there is much data to indicate that at any stage of the disease, and at any time in your life, you can get active and prolong your life. However, 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.”

Notably, inactive people of all ages are prone to being overweight, even obese. Weight problems can lead to insulin resistance and on to Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

At present, more than 29 million people in the United States have diabetes. Moreover, those numbers are expected to continue to escalate, especially for people born after 2000.

Get Moving and Stay Active

Fadel, along with fellow researcher John Thyfault, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology, explained that the best remedy is for people to become more active. Explained Fadel, “if you do not realize how harmful sitting around all day and not doing any activity is to your health, this proves it.”

Missouri researchers studied the early effects on the body’s blood vessels when an individual makes the downward transition from taking 10,000 or more steps per day to 5,000 or fewer steps per day. The 5,000-step threshold is what the median American does daily, even so it is only about 50 percent of what the US Surgeon General recommends.

After just five days of physical inactivity, the function of the inner lining of the blood vessels in the legs decreases. The researchers concluded that a lack of exercise even for just five days “changes the measure that is already known to be important for long-term cardiovascular health.” That inactivity also causes impairments in glycemic control and insulin sensitivity.

Moderate Activity Daily

For many people, finding out what represents sufficient exercise activity can be a challenge. So, the researchers concluded that all it takes is 30 minutes of moderate activity on a daily basis.

“We need to teach and explain to people about the physiology of their bodies and the physiology of the disease process and help them understand that inactivity plays a foundational role in the disease process,” said Thyfault. Certain behavioral tools, such as pedometers, can help people monitor their progress. Such tools can help them realize that their personal health goes beyond what they look like in a mirror or how much they weigh.

For college students, getting enough exercise may not seem like much of a problem, particularly if they walk from their dorms, regularly cross campus and engage in at least occasional intramural sports. Yet, those activities may not be enough, especially if extended bouts of sedentary times are a factor.

See AlsoFitness Ambition and How to Get It


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