Inactivity Health Risks: Just 2 Weeks of Inactivity May Speed Up Diabetes in Seniors

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It’s no secret that physical exercise becomes increasingly important as we get older. Staying in shape promotes bone health, reduces muscle and joint pain, boosts balance and improves mobility, among other tremendous health benefits.

But what inactivity health risks do we face with age? Many studies show that a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of dementia. And according to one new study, a mere two weeks of inactivity may trigger full-blown diabetes in seniors who have prediabetes.

The research delves into inactivity health risks for seniors, specifically regarding metabolic effects

A team of scientists monitored a group of seniors between the ages of 60 and 85. All had prediabetes diagnoses.

Researchers requested that participants take no more than 1,000 steps for a two-week period. Throughout this time, researchers took blood samples and measured blood sugar levels.

In a couple of days after the study began, the participants’ skeletal muscle mass and strength significantly decreased, according to the results. Scientists also noted that signs of type 2 diabetes, including insulin resistance, appeared very quickly.

Perhaps most concerning, though, is that returning to a healthy exercise regimen for two weeks after did not do enough to offset the harmful inactivity health risks.

“We expected to find that the study participants would [develop diabetes], but we were surprised to see that they didn’t revert […] to their healthier state when they returned to normal activity,” said research lead Chris Mcglory. He is a Diabetes Canada Research Fellow in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.

So what can seniors do to avoid such inactivity health risks, especially when predisposed for diabetes?

“In order for [older adults with prediabetes] to recover metabolic health and prevent further declines from periods of inactivity, strategies such as rehabilitation, dietary changes and perhaps medication might be useful,” McGlory said.