There are always times when, for some reason or another, you end up hitting pause on your exercise routine. More often than not, exercise is one of the first things to get dropped off the schedule when life gets too busy or stress takes hold.
Other times it could be due to illness or injury that you have to pull back on exercise.
No matter what the reason, when you go from a consistent and/or regular exercise schedule to zero exercise your body responds the same.
Our bodies are really quick to act when we stop exercising and typically follow a process whereby the longer we go without exercise the more detrimental the impacts.
So how long does it really take your body to notice you have stopped exercising?
After 1-3 Days:
- Your body will use the advantage of this small break to recover and repair muscles. At this point the body doesn’t know you aren’t returning to exercise and it is taking the break to get you ready for your next exercise session.
After 1 Week:
- Your cardiovascular fitness level will start decreasing. Your body has started to realise that it might not need as many red blood cells anymore as you aren’t using as much oxygen. So to save on energy, the body starts to scale back on red blood cell production.
- Within just 1 week, your body could be back to it’s normal, out of shape, cardiovascular levels as it scales back on this process so quickly.
After 2 Weeks:
- Your muscle fibres start to lose their size and strength. At this point you are telling your body, “I don’t need those muscles anymore” and the body responds by no longer directing energy to repairing and growing those muscle fibres.
- The body now adapts to the workload it is performing. So if that workload requires very little strength, then your body will revert to having very little strength.
After 1 Month:
- Your body will have less muscle mass and increased fat, and you might start feeling more stressed and have trouble sleeping.
- With very little energy expenditure, unless you drastically reduced your calorie intake, your body has likely been storing more fat as your muscle mass decreases.
- The combination of lower oxygen levels, increased fat, and decreased muscle mass results in a feeling of sluggishness and fatigue.
After More Than 3 Months:
- Your metabolism slows down, your heart and lung function decrease and you might experience fatigue more frequently.
- Now that the red blood cell count has slowed down on production, the muscle mass has decreased and your fat mass has increased the lack of exercise results in an increased strain on organ functioning.
After 1 Year:
- Muscle mass reductions, fat mass increases, and organ functioning continues to deteriorate throughout the 12 months. As that deterioration progresses and more stress is put on the body, your risk of comorbidities such as high blood pressure, high cholestrol levels, Type II diabetes, and heart conditions begins to increase at a faster rate.
The longer you go without exercise the more detrimental the effects on the body and the more difficult it becomes to get back your fitness and strength levels.
As you can see, a break from exercise for up to 2 weeks will impact your muscular and cardio fitness levels, but won’t start to have too much of an impact on your overall health. However, once you go past the 2-week mark the impact begins to increase.
So no matter the reason, trying to get yourself back on track and exercising within 2 weeks is important for your overall health and well-being.
Starting over and going back can always be tricky, but there are a few tricks that can help you kick-start your fitness journey again. You can check out “ ‘5 tips to help you stick to your new year fitness goals” to find out about these tricks.