Another study suggests that lack of walking and other physical activity damages blood vessels and causes many health issues

If you are looking for a reason to commit to daily exercise in 2015, here are two: The U.S. surgeon general says most of us only exercise about half the recommended amount to be healthy, and a new study shows that this lack of activity damages our blood vessels, which contributes to much of what ails us.

Research at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, found that going from high (10,000 steps a day) to low levels of daily physical activity (5,000 steps a day) for just five days decreases the function of the inner lining of the blood vessels in the legs, according to a news release from the university.

“The impairment we saw in just five days was quite striking,” Paul Fadel, associate professor of medical pharmacology and physiology at the university, said in the release. “It shows just how susceptible the vascular system is to physical inactivity.” Previous studies have found that a decrease in blood-vessel function is linked to early cardiovascular death and hypertension.

Kentucky is the ninth most inactive state, with almost one-third (30.2 percent) of Kentuckians reporting in a national survey that they did not engage in physical activity or exercise during the previous 30 days other than doing their regular jobs, according to the State of Obesity report.

A collective New Year’s resolution by Kentuckians to increase their physical activity, if kept, would help improve almost every health issue that plagues our state: obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease. Kentucky ranks fifth in obesity, 17th in diabetes and fifth in hypertension, and is projected to have more than 1 million cases of heart disease by 2010, the report says.

“Inactivity is typically going to lead to people being overweight and obese,” Fadel said. “The next step after that is insulin resistance, which leads to Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

So, how much activity do we need to keep our blood vessels healthy? 10,000 steps every day, says the surgeon general. But the reality is that most of us only take 5,000 steps a day, which is considered a low activity level. The research for this study is based on 30 minutes of moderate activity a day.

“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,” John Thyfault, associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the university, said.

“Then we give them behavioral tools, like pedometers, to monitor and help them achieve higher physical activity so they start to see and feel health improvements. These studies are proof we need to get people to understand their activity every day plays a role in their health, and that their health is not simply a matter of body weight and how they look in the mirror.”

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