No matter how strong your commitment to fitness might be, there’s a point when all of us hit a slump. Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned fitness enthusiast, taking a break from gyming is pretty worrying, as you don’t want to lose all the benefits that you’ve gained.
But how soon does a break from working out start to take a toll on fitness levels and does it really affect it at all?
How A Gym Break Affects Your Fitness Levels
“Individuals with higher fitness levels would need to take much longer breaks to experience any ill effects, but fitness newbies will start to suffer drops in strength & endurance rapidly”
While skipping a workout or two on occasion is nothing to worry about, long breaks can have an adverse impact. However, the extent to which it affects you will vary depending on existing fitness levels and the type of workouts you engage in.
When you take a fitness break, your body fights to retain its shape. So, individuals with higher fitness levels would need to take much longer breaks to experience any ill effects, but someone who’s taken up gyming more recently will face the fallout more quickly.
As a general rule, a week-long gym break won’t soften those muscles, but anything longer than that is likely to have consequences. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology indicates that a 2 week break from working out can cause cardiovascular fitness levels and muscle mass to drop.
Depending on how buffed you are, you could lose all your fitness gains in 2 months or more, after falling off the fitness bandwagon.
What Happens to Your Body Once You Stop Exercising
What Happens When You Don’t Workout For 10 Days
“You will probably experience reduced blood flow to the brain region connected with memory & emotions”
You probably know that physical exercise is also good for your brain, so it should come as no surprise that the first change you experience is in the brain. A study in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience reveals that even a short break from regular exercise causes changes in the brain.
Within 10 days of taking a break from exercise, you will probably experience reduced blood flow to the brain region connected with memory and emotions. You won’t experience any visible changes, but this could affect moods and obviously memory over time.
What Happens When You Don’t Workout For 14 Days
“Efficiency of oxygen utilization drops by at least 10% & keeps going down”
Endurance levels will start to plummet and you’ll struggle to manage as many reps as you could before. If you could run up 4 flights of stairs before without going breathless, you may find that you can only manage 3 now.
This is because a 2 week exercise break will cause a reduction in energy efficiency, or to be more precise – the amount of oxygen your body can use, called VO2 max. In 2 weeks, you can expect VO2 max to drop by 10% and it will keep dropping from there.
Not all changes are observable in terms of strength and endurance. Several studies suggest that a 2 week exercise break can also cause a spike in blood glucose and blood pressure levels, undoing any benefits that may have been gained from exercise on this front.
What Happens When You Don’t Workout For 1 Month
“Muscle strength starts to decline & you may not be able to lift the same weights you did before”
Strength usually declines at a slower rate as compared to endurance, but if you’ve taken a month long break from working out, you can expect to see your strength slip away too. Fortunately, the loss of strength is a lot more gradual, with some studies suggesting that the effects may not be noticeable for extremely fit individuals even months after taking a break.
What Happens When You Don’t Workout For 2 Months
“Body fat levels start to increase even in extremely fit individuals, while muscle mass declines”
Around a month and a half into your fitness break itself you can expect to suffer the most undesirable changes. Yes, body fat levels start to increase even in extremely fit individuals like swimmers, as demonstrated in a study that appeared in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Although the increase in waist size may not be noticeable, you will probably be able to observe the increased fat by standing on a weighing scale. Sadly, this fat gain also corresponds with muscle mass loss. So, in 2 months, you can expect your biceps to shrink and your tummy to bulge!
Taking an unplanned and extended break from a fitness routine is a bad idea, but it’s not the end of the world. Although fitness levels will suffer, you can still regain that muscle. In fact, it will be a lot easier to regain muscle than it was the first time around, thanks to what scientists call muscle memory.
So, we’d advise you to take short fitness breaks on occasion, without feeling guilty about it, but whatever you do, try not to fall off the fitness bandwagon altogether.
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