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December 24, 2018

What happens when you stop training/working out?

Image credit: iStock/iammotos

Working out can be a great way to improve your overall fitness and can help to boost your mood. It keeps our bodies in tip-top condition, but what happens when we stop? We’ve all been there, just taking that lazy day off from the gym, which turns into a few days, a week, a month, and before we know it, our membership has expired.

It’s easy to do, and we might trick ourselves into thinking that it doesn’t really matter, but in reality there are few significant changes to our health that can come into play when we let our workout regime lapse. Here are some of the major changes that happen in our body when we stop training:

 

Increase in blood pressure

When we stop working out for a prolonged period the blood vessels that are normally wider to facilitate a faster flow of blood begin to contract. As a result, our blood pressure rises, as our bodies adapt to a more sedentary lifestyle.

Higher blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is linked to a range of potential illnesses, including an increased risk of a heart attack, heart failure, stroke and other conditions, such as kidney disease and dementia.

 

Spike in blood sugar levels

Our bodies burn sugar to fuel our movement and when we are less active, this results in an increase in our blood sugar levels. When our workout regime changes and we become less active, the sugars that would normally be burnt through training simply stay within our bloodstream.

Sustained high levels of blood sugar are a leading cause of diabetes and are a significant risk factor for our health. As a result, maintaining an active lifestyle can be a powerful way to safeguard our health for longer.

 

Muscle wastage reduces strength

When we don’t keep ourselves active, the muscles we’ve built during previous time in the gym or working out will begin to be lost. Over time, this wastage can significantly reduce our overall strength.

After just two weeks of not working out, muscle mass will begin to considerably decline, while some muscle fibres will transform within the muscle from fast-twitch IIa fibres (used for high-intensity, bursts of activity) to more sustained activity-focused IIx fibres.

 

Body fat increases

The combination of a slow down in our metabolism coupled with less energy being burnt through activity means that when we stop working out, our bodies inevitably begin to store more fat if our diet does not change accordingly.

At the same time, our muscles begin to see a decline in their fat-burning potential from just seven days of lower levels of activity. This means that when we do begin to workout again, it can be more difficult to lose the extra fat that our bodies have gained.

 

Oxygen capacity falls

The VO2 Max – the maximum amount of oxygen that can be used effectively by our bodies to fuel activity – will begin to fall in as little as just seven days of lower levels of activity.

As a result, the cardio capacity for the amount of activity that can be undertaken before fatigue becomes a significant factor can be drastically reduced. Rebuilding the VO2 Max after a prolonged period of not working out can therefore be challenging.

Keeping up the habit of training regularly provides a raft of health benefits that you should aim for. As we’ve shown, maintaining a regular workout routine is therefore not only a great way to keep fit and healthy, but also means we can secure the benefits of a healthier lifestyle for longer.

 

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