Two benefits of acute exercise are the next day’s lowering of the postprandial plasma triglyceride response to a high-fat meal and increased fat oxidation. However, if activity levels (daily steps) are very low, these acute adaptations to exercise do not occur. This phenomenon has been termed “exercise resistance.” This study sought to systematically reduce daily step number and identify the range of step counts that elicit “exercise resistance.”
Ten participants completed three, 5-d trials in a randomized, crossover design with differing levels of step reduction. After 2 d of controlled activity, participants completed 2 d of LOW, LIMITED, or NORMAL steps (2675 ± 314, 4759 ± 276, and 8481 ± 581 steps per day, respectively). Participants completed a 1-h bout of running on the evening of the second day. High-fat tolerance tests were performed on the next morning, and postprandial responses were compared.
After LOW and LIMITED, postprandial incremental area under the curve (AUC) of plasma triglyceride was elevated 22%–23% compared with NORMAL (P < 0.05). Whole body fat oxidation was also significantly lower (16%–19%, P < 0.05, respectively) in LOW and LIMITED compared with NORMAL. No significant differences were found between LOW and LIMITED.
Two days of step reduction to approximately 2500–5000 steps per day in young healthy individuals impairs the ability of an acute bout of exercise to increase fat oxidation and attenuate postprandial increases in plasma triglycerides. This suggests that “exercise resistance” occurs in individuals taking approximately 5000 or fewer steps per day, whereas 8500 steps per day protects against exercise resistance in fat metabolism. It seems that fat metabolism is influenced more by the inhibitory effects of inactivity than by the stimulating effects derived from 1 h of moderate-intensity running.