Sitting for many hours threatens muscle health and promotes muscle loss. This emerges from a very recent scientific research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology by a Canadian team from the University of Toronto (Moore et al, J. Appl. Physiol., Sep 2022). But the researchers also managed to understand how to counteract this loss of muscle mass, despite a sedentary lifestyle, and to stimulate the use of amino acids contained in foods to synthesize muscle proteins. But let's understand better.
The risks of a sedentary lifestyle for blood sugar and muscles
A sedentary lifestyle has harmful effects on our body. For example, it has been observed that sitting for a long time impairs the body's ability to filter the sugar ingested with food. Not only that, as the study we are talking about today states, a sedentary lifestyle also stimulates the loss of muscle mass. Maintaining an adequate quantity and quality of muscle mass is essential for health and functionality in everyday life, ensuring movement and stability but also the regulation of blood sugar and of circulating fat values. Previous studies already knew that interrupting prolonged sedentary lifestyle with small physical exercises, such as brisk walking for a couple of minutes, improves blood sugar control and the body's ability to filter the glucose that comes from food. But nothing was known, at least until now, of the methods to be used to preserve muscle mass in the event of a sedentary lifestyle. In fact, sometimes a sedentary lifestyle cannot be avoided. Just think of those who have to sit at their desks for many hours for work, those who study or even those who have to stay at home due to illness. So let's see what to do to save muscle mass in case of a sedentary lifestyle.
Small physical exercises to protect the muscles
Scientists have tried to verify whether, also for the protection of muscle mass, intermittent physical exercise can help. In short, are small sessions of physical activity, performed several times throughout the day, only helpful in controlling blood sugar or even muscle mass? To answer this question, the researchers recruited 12 volunteers, average age 23. The study participants were divided into three groups. The first group was asked to sit for 7 and a half hours. The second group to remain seated for 7 and a half hours but to take a break every half hour, walking briskly for two minutes. The third group to remain seated for 7 and a half hours and to take a break every half hour doing 15 squats. All participants were served two meals containing carbohydrates and proteins. Well, from tests and examinations it emerged that physical activity, even if intermittent, made it possible to use more effectively, compared to those who only remained seated, the amino acids contained in meals for the synthesis of muscle proteins, in turn used to repair or replace damaged proteins in the muscles.
What emerges from the research is that, even if we are forced, for various reasons, to have a sedentary life, we can do a lot to take care of our muscle mass. Even if small, the study is important as it allows us to understand that small interruptions to a sedentary lifestyle for carrying out physical exercises, just for a couple of minutes, such as a brisk walk, squats or even getting up and down on the chair, are enough to improve our body's use of the foods we ingest. In this particular case, the body is able to more effectively use the amino acids contained in food to synthesize muscle proteins, thus nourishing and protecting muscle mass. Similarly, these interruptions also allow better use of the glucose introduced with the diet. In short, it is appropriate to say, these are small changes to the lifestyle that however have important benefits.