Is There Such A Thing As Eating Too Much Meat?

Bacon, turkey sausage, ham, chicken breast, steak—for many Americans, meat is a part of just about every meal of the day. Most of us fall short on fruits and veggies, but according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, we sure don’t struggle with eating enough meat. In fact, about 60 percent of us surpass the government’s daily recommendation for ‘protein foods.’

And as more and more research touts the benefits of eating a plant-based diet, any carnivore has got to wonder: Am I eating too much meat?

Nutrition experts and researchers have lots to say on the subject, and the overall consensus is that it depends. Meat can be an incredibly beneficial part of a well-balanced diet—but without that balance, the energy and nutrient-rich food source can become less than savory.

The Pros Of Being A Carnivore

A nice juicy steak is more than just a pretty face. Meat provides our body with a few important nutrients, including (you guessed it) protein. “Every ounce of meat contains about six or seven grams of protein,” says Rachel Berman, R.D. Your body uses protein to build muscle, make enzymes and hormones, and even create energy.

Meat also provides two essential nutrients that many Americans don’t get enough of: iron and vitamin B12, says Kelly Jones, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D. In fact, iron, which keeps our red blood cells functioning properly, is the most common nutrient deficiency in the U.S., she says. (B12 is vital for energy production and food absorption.)

A three to five-ounce serving of cooked meat (and poultry, too!) provides a lot of the iron and B12 we need, along with between 18 and 35 grams of protein, Jones says.

…And The Cons

When you go heavy on the meat for the sake of protein—like eating multiple servings of meat at a time—things start to go downhill, Jones says.

One reason why: “There’s a strong correlation between higher meat intake and lower diet quality,” says Jones. Chances are, the more meat you eat, the less fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes you eat—meaning you miss out on a variety of vitamins and minerals in those foods. In addition to nutrients like heart-healthy unsaturated fats, fiber, calcium, and more (depending on what you’re eating), many of these other healthy foods also provide protein, adds Berman. And when you miss out on some of these other foods and nutrients, your body may pay the price—a lack of fiber, for example, can leave you with digestive woes like constipation.

Plus, if you eat a meat-centric diet, you may notice feel dehydrated and foggy, and even gain weight. Overdoing it on protein—not meat itself—is technically the issue here, but since meat contains more protein than many other foods, it can be a big contributor.

When you eat protein, your body breaks it down into amino acids, which are used throughout the body. But when you consume protein beyond your calorie needs, some of it ends up stored as fat.

The process of breaking down protein produces a lot of nitrogen, some of which has to be filtered through your kidneys and flushed out of your body in urine, which requires your body to use a lot of water, Jones explains. So if you’re not 100 percent on top of your hydration game, you may end up feeling sluggish and dehydrated, she says.

Related: How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

But short-term downsides of a meat-centric diet aside, some research has found that over-consumption of red and processed meats, in particular, can lead to more serious health issues down the road.

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Let’s start with processed meat, like hot dogs, sausage, and bacon. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), enough research links consumption of processed meats to cancer to classify them as dangerous to human health—because of the chemicals involved and produced in their processing.

And then there’s red meat. According to the WHO, limited evidence also suggests a connection between red meat consumption and cancer (particularly colorectal cancer) because of compounds that form when it is cooked. Other studies have also identified worrisome links between red meat and health issues. For instance, one meta-analysis published in the Journal of Nutrition and Cancer that looked at 14 studies covering over 5,000 nonsmokers, identified a connection between higher consumption of red meat and greater risk of lung cancer. What’s more, a study following half a million Americans published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that those who ate the highest amounts of red meat had the highest mortality rates, both from cancer and cardiovascular disease.

While these results seems jarring—and they are significant—keep in mind that they just identify red meat consumption as one piece of the complicated puzzle of our health, and that more research is needed to confirm whether red meat actually causes cancer and other health concerns.

How To Find Balance

Do you need to give up meat altogether and become a vegetarian? Not quite.

To reduce your risk of any potential health risks associated with red meat in particular, Berman and Jones both recommend limiting your intake to one or two servings a week and choosing fresh, lean cuts (like sirloin) that haven’t been processed with artificial preservatives.

And while white meat—like chicken and turkey breast—hasn’t been associated with any health risks, Jones still recommends balancing your daily intake by eating a variety of protein sources. Her suggestion: Make meat or poultry a part of one meal per day, and get your protein from fish, eggs, and plant-based sources in your other meals. Protein aside, this will boost the variety of nutrients you consume.

Related: Shop a variety of vitamins and minerals to fill in any nutritional gaps.

Which Cardio Machine Burns The Most Calories?

Love it or loathe it, cardio is pretty important. It helps you burn fat, boosts your cardiac and respiratory health, supports your brain function, helps maintain your range of motion, improves your mood, and much more.

In a perfect world, we’d get our cardio in by playing outdoors—surfing, hiking, biking, and more—which trains our bodies in a well-rounded and robust way, says Craig Weller, exercise specialist at Precision Nutrition. But because rain and winter and, well, big cities, exist, that’s just not always possible. This is where gyms with rooms filled with cardio machines come in.

But which machine should you claim? The answer: all of them, if possible. Bouncing around from machine from machine can help you recreate the variability of outdoor exercise from the gym, says Weller. Put in moderate effort on the stair stepper, then the treadmill, the elliptical, the rower, and finally a spin bike, for example, to challenge your body in as many ways as possible and burn more calories.

But when the gym is crazy crowded—or you just don’t have a game of ‘musical cardio machines’ in you—committing to one machine may be your only option. In that case, go for the machine that “moves big muscle groups through big ranges of motion,” Weller says. The larger the muscles you work—and the larger the range of motion you move them through—the more energy your body needs and the more calories you burn, he explains. (Just a friendly FYI: Cardio machines are notorious for overestimating how many calories you burn, so ignore the wonky numbers on the screen as you sweat.)

If you’re looking to torch as many calories as possible in the cardio room, there are a couple of machines that offer the most potential burn.

Calorie-Crusher #1: The Stair-Stepper

There’s a reason so many of us dread the stair-stepper: it’s hard. So unsurprisingly, the stair-stepper can be a phenomenal calorie-torching tool, if you use it properly, Weller says. This killer machine activates large muscle groups like your glutes, hamstrings, and quads, but hits other areas of the body, too. The stair-stepper also engages your core, along with smaller stabilizing muscles all throughout your lower body, he explains.

According to Harvard Medical School, the average 155-pound person can burn about 223 calories in 30 minutes of stair-stepping.

Here’s the issue, though: If you put a lot of your body weight into leaning on those rails to make stair-stepping easier on your lower body, you’re totally sabotaging yourself. “That really reduces the amount of work you’re doing,” says Weller. And that means fewer calories burned. To burn as many calories as possible, you need to actively engage your hamstrings and glutes, and move your arms in tandem with your legs as if you were actually walking up a flight of stairs, he explains.

Calorie-Crusher #2: The Rowing Machine

You know the rowing machine—it’s usually stuck in the corner of the cardio room just looking for some love. But if you want to fire up as many muscles as possible and torch big-time calories, it’s the machine for you. The rower is probably the closest thing to a full-body workout you’ll find in the cardio room, Weller says. It activates your upper and mid-back, along with your shoulders, quads, glutes and hamstrings.

According to Harvard Medical School, the average 155-pound person can burn about 260 calories in 30 minutes of moderate rowing.

Related: The Best Full-Body Workout For When You Only Have 30 Minutes

With improper form on this one, though, you risk injuring your back, so keeping your core stable is key for both protecting your spine and maximizing calorie-burn, Weller says. Throughout the movement, brace your core enough to feel tension in your abs. This will keep the strain off your lower back. “Avoid arching your lower back at the finish of the pull,” Weller says. “Instead, exhale fully and feel your lower ribs on the front of your torso drop inward, together, and downward as your exhale.” (If you need a few extra pointers to nail your rowing form, check out this article.)

The Bottom Line

Yes, some machines may automatically up your potential for calorie-burning, but the only machine you need to use is the one you enjoy the most. “The best machine is usually the one that people just work hard on, or enjoy the most, or can tune out on but still put work in on,” says Weller. If you can spin the minutes away on the stationary bike and really love every pedal stroke, then that’s the machine for you.

Related: Support your workouts with pre and post-workout supplements.

Raise Your Hand If You Have Trouble Digesting Dairy

There’s a pretty good chance you know the feeling: a threatening rumble in your gut that comes after an extra scoop of ice cream or a particularly milky latte. With it begins your torturous wait for tummy issues like bloating, gas, and gotta-go sprints to the bathroom to subside. And every time you’re left wondering whether your belly’s reaction to dairy means you’ve become a little (or a lot) lactose intolerant.

The likely answer? Well, probably, considering more than two thirds of people worldwide develop some degree of lactose intolerance in their lifetime, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).

Here’s how it happens: Dairy contains a sugar molecule called lactose that needs to be broken down in your digestive system by an enzyme called lactase, explains Niket Sonpal, M.D., gastroenterology fellow at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. When you don’t have enough lactase enzymes in your system, you can’t digest that lactose—and boom, you’re lactose intolerant. “[That lactose] is then taken up by the bacteria in the gut, which causes it to kind of ferment and produce a lot of gas,” Sonpal says.

Some people are born without any ability to produce lactase enzymes, so they spend their entire lives lactose intolerant, says Sonpal. (A lifetime without Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby? Let’s all take a minute to pray for those unfortunate souls.) But what about the adults who suddenly find themselves struggling with dairy?

Basically, everyone’s production of the lactase enzyme declines over time—but how much it declines varies from person to person. “Depending on their genetic makeup, lifestyle, and other factors, everyone’s individual lactose intolerance is different,” says Sonpal. Some people may lose such an inconsequential amount of lactase that they can continue to enjoy dairy without problems for their entire lives, while others may lose so much that even a splash of half-and-half sends their tummy into panic mode.

To learn your true level of lactose intolerance, you can take a quick test at your doc’s office. You’ll consume some dairy and then breathe into a special bag that can measure your ability to digest the lactose you consumed based on the particles in your breath.

But you can also get a general idea of whether dairy is an issue for you by running a little experiment at home, which Sonpal dubs “Lactose and Chill.” Simply eat a dairy-heavy meal (get some cheese and a glass of milk in there) for dinner one night and monitor how you feel. The next night, eat a dairy-free meal and compare your gut reactions (heh).

Quick note: If both meals wreak havoc on your stomach, your issue may be a condition like irritable bowel syndrome, not lactose intolerance, Sonpal says. (People with IBS deal with frequent digestive distress involving anything from bloating to constipation to diarrhea.)

Related: 4 Possible Reasons Why Your Stomach Is Killing You All The Time

But if going ham on dairy does, in fact, leave you gassy, uncomfortable, or running to the bathroom, it’s time to change your diet, says says Keri Gans, R.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet.

“Some people, even with lactose intolerance, can tolerate small amounts of lactose,” she says. So if your belly symptoms weren’t too terrible, you might be okay to enjoy hard cheeses like cheddar (which are naturally lower in lactose), or a bit of milk in your coffee.

But if a glass of milk messes you up bad, you’re best off eliminating dairy from your diet completely. You’ll just need to make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D, the two primary nutrients you miss out on without dairy in your life, Gans says. Look for plant-based milks that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, and load up on green leafy vegetables, she suggests. (You may also want to consider a supplement to make sure you’re getting enough of these bone-supporting nutrients.)

Related: Check out a number of supplements to support your bones.

When you just can’t avoid dairy (we all need pizza sometimes!), you can try taking a lactose supplement before your meal to help your body deal.

Stop Letting These 4 Carb Myths Run Your Life

Carbohydrates have been the enemy of the diet world for pretty much forever. They’ve been long accused of making us gain weight, and it seems like every trendy diet out there recommends we slash them from our daily eats.

But if you’ve ever tried a low-carb diet, you probably know the feeling of being absolutely drained that comes along with it. And that’s not surprising: Carbs are a powerful source of energy for our body. They’re composed of strings of glucose molecules, which our body breaks down into sugar molecules, says nutritionist Kara Landau, founder of The Traveling Dietitian. These sugar molecules are used as energy or stored to be used later, she says.

“Carbs are the preferred fuel source for our brain and our muscles,” she says. “They help us concentrate, perform optimally, and stay energized.” Sounds pretty important, right?

Still, misunderstandings about carbs are everywhere, so we’re busting some of the most popular myths out there in hopes of convincing you that carbs can be part of your life.

Myth #1: Carbs Make You Fat

We know you’ve heard this one before. But the connection between carbs and weight gain is a little more complicated than “carbs equal fat,” says Keri Gans, R.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet. Whether or not carbs affect the scale comes down to quantity and quality, she says.  

Eat too many carbs—or too much of anything, for that matter—and you may take in too many calories, which leads to weight gain, Gans explains. You don’t have to completely break up with pasta and bread if you’re watching your weight—but you do need to control your portion sizes, she says. Just fill half of your plate with veggies, a quarter with protein, and the other quarter with high-fiber carbs. Choose carbs like legumes, beans, and whole-wheat pasta to get a dose of that filling fiber, she says.

Related: How To Eat Carbs And Still Lose Weight

When these carbs are just a portion of a healthy, balanced meal—and not the focus—you’ll feel satisfied without going overboard. Gans recommends serving pasta with sautéed vegetables and olive oil instead of dousing it in cheese, and making sandwiches with grilled chicken breast and avocado instead of processed deli meats.

Myth #2: All Carbs Are The Same

If a serving of soda and a serving of fruit contain the same amount of carbs, they’re pretty similar, right? Wrong.

Foods and drinks that contain refined carbs (like white flour and added sugar) do a pretty poor job of keeping you full and providing nutrition, says Landau. “When you eat cookies, cake, or candy, your blood sugar spikes and then nose dives quickly,” Gans says. And when your blood sugar dips back down, you’ll want to eat again to bring it up a bit—explaining the vicious cycle of all-day cravings. Plus, refined carbs are often pretty devoid of valuable vitamins and minerals, hence why they’re often called ‘empty calories,’ says Landau.

That’s not the case with natural, whole sources of carbs, like fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, and beans, says Landau. These wholesome carbs provide micronutrients our body needs, along with fiber. Dietary fiber is critical for slowing your digestion, making you feel full, and supporting your metabolism, Landau says. Some whole-food carbs even contain an indigestible type of fiber called ‘prebiotic fiber,’ which works to keep your gut healthy by supporting your digestion, immune system, and ability to absorb nutrients, she says.

So, yeah, go ahead and bit into that apple. The soda can go, though.

Myth #3: You Should Cut Carbs To Lose Weight And Be Healthier

When it comes to your daily diet, no food group should be ‘off limits,’ Gans says. If you swear off carbs, you’re practically guaranteed to go overboard when you do eventually eat them, she says.

Yes, cutting certain carbs can benefit your waistline and your overall health. If you’re going to slash carbs, just slash refined carbs and added sugars, says Landau. By now, you already know that whole-food carbs are better for your waistline—and they may also be better for your brain. You know that joke we’ve all made about being addicted to carbs? According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a super-high-carb meal activates the part of the brain associated with cravings, reward, and addiction.

Related: Is Sugar Really All That Bad For You?

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Just swap out white pasta for pasta made from legumes (chickpea pasta is a good option) and ditch side dishes like white rice for sweet potatoes. This way, the carbs you eat provide fiber and nutrients to support your health and keep you from going overboard, says Landau.

Myth #4: You Should Only Eat Carbs At Certain Times Of Day 

Only eat carbs after you work out? No carbs after lunchtime? There are plenty of ‘rules’ about when you should eat carbs floating around out there. But ultimately, the quality of the carbs you eat—and how much total you consume—throughout the day is what really matters, says Landau.

Sure, if you’re snacking in front of the TV or computer after dinner, you might be more inclined to munch on foods that are high in refined carbs and sugar, like snack mixes or sleeves of cookies, says Landau. And because these foods don’t keep you full, you end up overeating. Instead, reach for a filling snack bar that’s made from nuts and contains fiber (like KIND’s Madagascar Vanilla Almond bar) or a serving of your favorite fruit. It’s all about eating healthy carbs in the proper portions—and pairing them with quality protein or fat, Gans says. We’ll have a spoonful of peanut butter on our evening apple, please!

Related: Check out fiber supplements to keep your gut—and waistline—happy.

Consider This Weight-Loss Study Your Green Light To Sleep In On Weekends

When it feels like there just are not enough hours in the work week, getting to bed on time is one of the first things to go out the window—which can worsen the negative health effects of stress, such as that pesky weight gain.

Good news, though: You can escape the downward spiral of drowsy mornings, extra-large coffees, and mid-afternoon sugar binges. According to a new study published in Sleep, it may be as simple as sleeping in for a few extra hours on the weekend.

In a study of more than 2,000 Koreans, researchers found that those who had poor sleep during the work week but slept in on the weekend had lower BMIs (a.k.a. ‘body mass indexes’) than those who slept poorly during the week but did not sleep in on weekends, says lead study author Hee-Jin Im, M.D., Ph.D., of Korea University’s Department of Neurology.

The researchers surveyed and interviewed thousands of participants—who ranged from 19 to 82 years old—about their sleep habits, occupations, and other components (like mood and stress levels) that may influence BMI, Im says. While age, physical activity level, and occupation all played roles in each participant’s BMI, the total number of hours of sleep they got per week—and how they slept on the weekend—turned out to be key for those who had lower BMIs, she says. (Im calls the practice of sleeping in on the weekends “catch-up sleep.”)

The participants got an average of seven hours of sleep per night, with those who slept for longer on the weekends banking an extra 90 minutes to three hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Those who caught up on sleep over the weekend had an average BMI of 22.8, while those who did not had an average BMI of 23.1. (BMIs in the range of 18.5 to 24.9 are considered ‘healthy,’ according to the National Institutes of Health.) The change seems minor—but that difference of just 0.3 is statistically significant, making it clear that poor sleep can impact other aspects of your health, the researchers said.

How does missing out on sleep mess with your BMI? Those who don’t get enough sleep tend to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol (which can increase blood pressure and promote fat storage), and often crave high-fat, calorie-dense foods, Im says.

Related: The Truth About Belly Fat

When you sleep well throughout the week, or catch up on sleep over the weekend, you not only help your body function at its best throughout the day, but you also reduce your risk of weight gain and long-term health concerns like heart problems, she says.

Sounds like a plan, right? Just remember that since we all have individual sleep needs, there’s no one ‘dose’ of Zzz’s that will keep your waistline in check, Im says. To put things in perspective, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep per night—and in 2014, just 35 percent of Americans reported having ‘good’ sleep quality.

For the other 65 percent of us, making up for lost sleep on the weekends may be our best bet at getting out of sleep debt and keeping our weight—and health—in check. Getting a few extra hours on the weekend isn’t the ideal strategy (getting a full, quality sleep every night is the ideal, of course), but it can clearly make a difference, Im says. Just don’t try to re-stock on sleep by way of napping. “A nap is a fragmentation of sleep,” she says, meaning you can never fall into the deep sleep your body needs to recover from sleep loss.

Related: Check out a number of supplements to support a good snooze.

Are You Doing Too Much HIIT?

When we’re feeling perpetually short on time, our workout routine is often the first thing to go out the window. So it’s no wonder HIIT (high-intensity interval training), which promises quick workouts with impressive results, has become so immensely popular with gym newbies and fitness junkies alike.

With HIIT, you push yourself as hard as you can for just a few seconds or minutes at a time, recover, and then repeat. This lasts anywhere between four and 30 minutes. Then you’re done!

What gives HIIT its edge? During those all-out intervals, you work at about 80 percent of your body’s max (or higher), says Martin Gibala, P.H.D., chair of kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario. When you work at this intensity, you push your VO2 max, which is the fasted speed at which your body can deliver much-needed oxygen to your working muscles—and improve it over time. (In fact, a 2015 meta-analysis published in Sports Medicine found HIIT to be more effective at improving VO2 max over time than traditional steady-state cardio.)

Along with that, HIIT also boosts your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), meaning your body continues to shuttle extra oxygen to your exhausted muscles, helping them repair more quickly. This formula makes for major fitness (and physique) results over time.

Here’s the thing, though: You can definitely get too much of a good thing. Should you do all HIIT all the time? Probably not.

Overdo it on HIIT and your body has more and more difficulty recovering from the stress of working out (because, yes, exercise is a stressor on your bod), explains Craig Weller, coach at Precision Nutrition. Eventually, the weight-loss, health, or fitness results you’re looking for start to backslide. After all, your body can only benefit from workouts it can recover from, he says.

If you’re not recovering, your body will let you know it’s suffering in a few ways:

  1. Your Resting Heart Rate Gets Whacked Out

Monitoring your resting heart rate can be a good indicator that you’re training too hard, says Gibala. If you notice that your resting heart rate has crept up (even by just a few beats per minute) in the next few days after you’ve started doing HIIT, and you can’t attribute the disruption to any other lifestyle changes, it may be a sign that you need to back off.

Related: 5 Signs You Need A Day Off From The Gym

A higher-than-normal heart rate in the morning is a sign that your body wasn’t able to shift into ‘rest and digest’ mode overnight, and is still in stress-response mode, Weller explains. “If your heart rate isn’t as low as it should be in the morning, that means that your baseline is shifting over into a continuous stress state and you’re not recovering adequately,” he says.

  1. You’re Having Trouble Sleeping

Another result of being stuck in stress-response mode is the inability to fall asleep at night, Weller says. If you still feel wired from your workout when you lay down at night, consider it a red flag that you may be working too hard.

“If you have a hard time shutting down and really relaxing and letting go at night, your body’s kind of freaked out and in that ongoing stress response,” he says.

  1. You’re Always Tired And Dread Working Out

We all get stuck in a fitness rut every now and then, but if dragging yourself to the gym feels like more of a chore than usual, it could signal that you’re over-reaching. ‘Over-reaching’ is a more technical term for ‘over-training,’ Weller says. In this state, your body begins to tolerate the stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that normally get you going during exercise.

When you’re constantly in that stress-response mode and have more of those stress hormones floating around, your heart works harder than normal, even when it shouldn’t have to—like when you’re sleeping, Weller says. As a result, you feel inexplicably drained—and your motivation tanks.

Find Your HIIT Sweet Spot

To reap the maximum benefit possible from HIIT, take a look at the bigger picture of your workout routine.

No matter your fitness level or goals, you should always take a varied approach to your workout routine so you’re conditioned for all sorts of exercise, says Gibala. For example, including a couple low-rep, heavy-weight strength training sessions throughout the week can help you build strength and power through HIIT workouts, Weller says.

Weller recommends fitness rookies start with one to two HIIT sessions per week. You’ll know you’re ready to kick it up a notch when you start to notice continuous improvement in your ability to complete and recover from the workouts you’re doing, he says. (And remember to check in with your sleep quality and motivation level.)

Ultimately, our bodies are all different: In time, some of us may be able to crank out up to five HIIT sessions per week, while others may need to stick to about three with a day of rest between each, Weller says.

Related: Find a performance supplement to power your next training session.

 

 

 

This Is What Happens To Your Body After Just Two Weeks On The Couch

You know that rest is crucial for maintaining your fitness—and your sanity. But how much time off from your exercise routine does it take before you actually start to sabotage your results?

According to a new study out of the University of Liverpool, just a brief hiatus from your regular physical activity may have major health consequences—including weight gain and increased risk for chronic diseases (gulp), for otherwise healthy people.

How brief a hiatus are we talking? Just two weeks, according to researchers at the university’s Center for Aging and Chronic Disease.

The study’s participants included 28 young, healthy, active adults, who typically averaged about 10,000 steps per day, had healthy-range body mass indexes (BMIs), and had no health complications. Throughout the two weeks of the study, they maintained their normal diets, but limited their daily step count to just 1,500 per day.

The results were frightening: “Thee participants generally gained fat mass and gained it centrally [around their midsections], which we know is a risk factor for type two diabetes,” says Kelly Bowden-Davies, a lead researcher on the project. “Their cholesterol and triglycerides increased, and their measures of fitness decreased.”

Related: The Truth About Belly Fat

The changes were small, but measurable—indicating a risk of potential future health concerns had that sedentary period continued.

The findings highlight the consequences of a growing trend in sedentary behavior around the world, Bowden-Davies says. (A major red flag for all of us who sit hunched over computer screens at our desks all day or spend a lot of time with Netflix.)

The good news: When the study participants returned to their normal activity levels, the negative changes that resulted from their couch time reversed—in the same amount of time. So, luckily those two weeks off don’t mean permanent damage to your health and fitness—which is a major sigh of relief, and evidence that we do have some ability to improve our health with an active lifestyle.

“What we’re trying to say is that any sort of physical activity is going to be beneficial to your health,” says Bowden-Davies. “How many steps per day you take or how much time you spend sitting is really, really important for your health.”

According to Bowden-Davies, small changes to your daily routine—like getting off the bus or subway a few stops early and walking whenever possible—can offer health benefits (especially when it comes to your cardiovascular system and body weight) long-term.

Keep in mind, too, that the World Health Organization recommends adults between ages 18 and 64 do 30 minutes of “moderate-intensity” physical activity five days per week, or 150 total minutes per week. So, definitely don’t forget to pencil in those strength-training or HIIT sessions!

Related: Shop performance supplements to fuel your next workout.