If there’s ever been a time period in your life when you were absolutely dedicated to working out I imagine there was also a time when you considered NOT working out. When you first get into the routine you feel good, you get that amazing high and then you start to see and feel results- it’s exhilarating. But all it takes is one little thing or even a series of issues, and you’ve missed the gym. It can be hard to get back into the routine. However, turns out there are some physical things that start happening to your body, within days.
Your Body When You Stop Exercising
Here’s exactly what you can expect to happen to your body if you give up exercise. After you read the list you can decide if it’s really worth it to take an extended (or forever) break:
Within 10 days: Your brain may start to change. Researchers have long suspected that exercise is good for your brain and a new study in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience may confirm that; it seems even a short vacation from your workout might cause changes to the brain.
From the article:
“In the study, when a group of long-term endurance runners took a 10-day exercise hiatus, their subsequent MRIs showed a reduction in blood flow to the hippocampus, the part of the brain that’s associated with memory and emotion. The researchers point out that although the runners didn’t experience any cognitive changes over the period, more long-term studies are needed.”
Within two weeks: Our endurance plummets and vitals may spike. After only 14 days you might find it more difficult to climb a flight! The reason? Skipping out on that workout causes about a 10% drop in your VO2 max (the max amount of oxygen your body can use) after two weeks. But, it only gets worse from there: After four weeks, your VO2 max can drop by about 15%, and after three months, it can fall about 20%—“and those are conservative estimates,” reports the article.
The good news is that remaining even the slightest bit active helps; a 2009 study followed two groups of male kayakers. The first group took a five-week break from their training and saw an 11.3% drop- on average- in their VO2 max. But, in those who worked in a handful of exercise sessions during each week, the drop was only 5.6%.
You may also notice a sharp rise in your blood pressure and blood glucose levels. From the article, “Researchers from South Africa found that a two-week exercise break was enough to offset the blood pressure benefits of two weeks of high-intensity interval training; another 2015 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that people who did an eight-month bout of resistance and aerobic exercise saw an improvement in the blood glucose levels, but lost almost half of these benefits after 14 days of inactivity.”
Around week four: Your strength starts slipping. While some people may notice their strength decline after about two weeks of inactivity, others will see a difference around week four. Thankfully our strength diminishes at a slower rate than our endurance.
Within eight weeks: You may start to gain fat. By week six you should notice a difference on the scale or in the mirror and elite athletes aren’t immune either. When the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked at competitive swimmers who took a five-week break from their training, they found that they had a 12% increase in their levels of body fat, and they gained body weight and waist circumference.
Now, don’t let this scare you- there may be times that your body needs a rest, like after an injury. Just make sure that if you take a break, it’s just that, a break. And during that time don’t quit moving your body…even light walking is better than nothing. Your body and brain will thank you for it!