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What happens to your body when you take a break from exercise?

So here you are! You had decided to exercise during lockdown or even before that and got into a great and healthy lifestyle. But then life happens, and you might decide to take a break from exercise, whether due to work commitments, injury or illness, a holiday or simply laziness.



Do not beat yourself up for it. It just happens to the best of us.


Having rest days during your exercise routine is very important as it will help your body recover; it also improves your performance when strategically applied.


Taking a break is very different as the duration of the break will impact your body in different ways. A couple of weeks with no exercise is very unlikely to do any harm. However, any longer could have some profound impact on your next performance.


Lower levels of aerobic fitness

First and foremost, you will see a decline in aerobic conditioning. When training regularly, your heart and lungs regularly work efficiently at delivering enough blood and oxygen to your body. However, when you take a break from regular exercise, this ability starts to decline at a rate that would depend on how fit you are (regular gym-goer or occasional runner).


Keeping fit aids your cardiovascular system in working more efficiently and delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. It helps prevent health conditions such as cancer, arthritis and type 2 diabetes.


Muscle Loss

After 12 weeks of no exercise, a decrease in your muscles will be another consequence that may not be totally visible but could contribute to injuries and lack of strength when you decide to go back to it.

It has been demonstrated that not a lot happens to your muscle within two weeks; however, a rapid decline can be noticeable from 3 weeks for athletes (6% loss of muscle mass), and an occasional gym-goer could lose all the muscle built over two months in the same amount of time.

In short, the longer you leave it, the more muscle mass you lose.


Weight Gain

The most apparent effect would be weight gain, as your ability to burn the calories will be heavily reduced too. Without exercising and no adjustment to your overall diet will lead to increased weight gain.


Although not too noticeable at first as the fat will replace the muscle lost, unhealthy excess of fat could lead to far more significant cardiovascular problems.





Loss of endurance

The endurance loss and shortness of breath come in pairs and result from the loss of aerobic conditioning. Suddenly, you will find things you found easy, challenging, such as running through the stairs or after the bus.


However, by building upon the first few sessions, you will see significant and quick improvements, especially if you had a good exercise routine prior to the break.


Mental wellbeing

Pausing your exercise may also cause an emotional dip due to the lack of endorphins pumped into your body after exercise. This feel-good and happy hormone is usually released after exercise improves your mood, enhance your immune system. Taking a break from exercising could lead to the lack of endorphins sent to your brain and contribute to mental discomfort. It is important to regularly work out because not only will it boost your fitness, but it will also improve your mental wellbeing.

Shortness of breath

All is not lost, though, as the fitter you are, the easier it is to get back to your healthy routine. The most important is to adapt your routine to your lifestyle and make sure that exercise fits your day-to-day life, so it does not become a burden.


Plan it in your calendar, and try not to make commitments that stop you from getting your dose of endorphins.


Also, it could be that you have fallen out of love with your exercise routine so try to mix or perhaps experiment with a new sport. Physical activity is an excellent way to monitor your blood pressure and blood sugar. Aerobic exercise works your heart and lungs.


Not all workouts are boring; they can also be enjoyable and help you get a good night's sleep.


Exercise boosts the body's ability to use oxygen effectively and makes your muscles more efficient. This means you will need less oxygen for any given exercise, and therefore you will be less likely to feel out of breath.

According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, when you take a break from exercise, you will have lost about 15 per cent of your VO2 Max after just two months.


VO2 Max, or maximal oxygen consumption, refers to the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during intense or maximal exercise.


what happens to your body when you stop exercising
Source: Mike Donavanik C.S.C.S

What happens when you return to the gym after a break?

When you return to exercise, you will feel more out of breath completing exercises or classes that you felt fine to complete before the break. However, do not worry, if you had a good fitness level before the break, you would still be better off than somebody who has never trained!

However, this does not apply to brand-new gains. For example, if you did a couch-to-5k program and then went straight back to the sofa, you will have to start over. An aerobically fit athlete can experience a 25% decline from their prime in just a matter of a few months.


Key Takeaway

It is better to fit in a few short, high-intensity workouts than skip them altogether. If you can fit in a workout, even a short one, it is better than doing nothing. You may not be resetting yourself back to zero, but the losses can still be significant.


If you're looking for an activity that benefits both your body and your mind, and you want to see and feel results quickly, why not give HIIT a go? Contact us now at Hustlehiit for a free consultation.


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