Similarly, in another 2018 study, when healthy, young volunteers who normally took about 10,000 steps a day cut back to below 2,000 steps, they began to show heightened blood sugar, lower insulin sensitivity and worse cholesterol profiles within two weeks.
Thankfully, those metabolic consequences receded within the next two weeks, once the young people returned to their normal activities, says Kelly Bowden Davies, a lecturer at Newcastle University, who led the new study. “Increasing daily steps was enough to restore normal health,” she says.
Likewise, Dr. Pedlar says, most of us can expect to recover our former fitness quickly, even if we must temporarily reduce our training. The first few runs or workouts after such a layoff can feel slow and wretched, he admits, “and you may think you’ve lost all of your fitness.” But “don’t panic.” In general, he says, any reductions in blood volume and stamina should soon be regained. “Do not come back too hard,” he advises. Ease into any more-strenuous training regimen once you have additional time and interest. “But know that you can come back.”
OK, so how little exercise can I get away with in the meantime and still stay reasonably fit?
“There is evidence that even about five minutes a day of mini-workouts could be sufficient” to help us maintain a baseline of fitness, says Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. And the necessary equipment and instruction for a full-body regimen are minimal.
“Mix push-ups, jumping jacks, burpees, lunges, stair ascents and descents, ideally with short recovery periods to keep heart rate up,” he says. In one of the studies he oversaw recently, young people who hurried up and down flights of stairs for about 20 seconds three times a day increased their aerobic fitness by about 5 percent after six weeks.
So, if you are absolutely housebound, consider enticing your children, dogs and spouse to head up and down the stairs with you a few times or engage in a rousing jumping jack competition. The dogs, I bet, will lose.
Other useful resources:
Many fitness professionals and organizations are offering free online fitness classes and apps of all varieties now. Check YouTube and other social media or your preferred app store to find one that appeals to you.