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Reduced physical activity in young and older adults: metabolic and musculoskeletal implications

Bowden Davies, KA and Pickles, S and Sprung, VS and Kemp, GJ and Alam, U and Moore, DR and Tahrani, AA and Cuthbertson, DJ (2019) Reduced physical activity in young and older adults: metabolic and musculoskeletal implications. Therapeutic Advances in Endocrinology and Metabolism, 10. ISSN 2042-0188

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Abstract

© The Author(s), 2019. Background: Although the health benefits of regular physical activity and exercise are well established and have been incorporated into national public health recommendations, there is a relative lack of understanding pertaining to the harmful effects of physical inactivity. Experimental paradigms including complete immobilization and bed rest are not physiologically representative of sedentary living. A useful ‘real-world’ approach to contextualize the physiology of societal downward shifts in physical activity patterns is that of short-term daily step reduction. Results: Step-reduction studies have largely focused on musculoskeletal and metabolic health parameters, providing relevant disease models for metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes (T2D), nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), sarcopenia and osteopenia/osteoporosis. In untrained individuals, even a short-term reduction in physical activity has a significant impact on skeletal muscle protein and carbohydrate metabolism, causing anabolic resistance and peripheral insulin resistance, respectively. From a metabolic perspective, short-term inactivity-induced peripheral insulin resistance in skeletal muscle and adipose tissue, with consequent liver triglyceride accumulation, leads to hepatic insulin resistance and a characteristic dyslipidaemia. Concomitantly, various inactivity-related factors contribute to a decline in function; a reduction in cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle mass and muscle strength. Conclusions: Physical inactivity maybe particularly deleterious in certain patient populations, such as those at high risk of T2D or in the elderly, considering concomitant sarcopenia or osteoporosis. The effects of short-term physical inactivity (with step reduction) are reversible on resumption of habitual physical activity in younger people, but less so in older adults. Nutritional interventions and resistance training offer potential strategies to prevent these deleterious metabolic and musculoskeletal effects. Impact: Individuals at high risk of/with cardiometabolic disease and older adults may be more prone to these acute periods of inactivity due to acute illness or hospitalization. Understanding the risks is paramount to implementing countermeasures.

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