The technical term for stopping exercise for an extended period of time is known by experts as “detraining” and there’s a couple thing that happens when you go through this process.
One of the very first things to change is your blood vessels.
In fact, according to a study done at the University of Connecticut,
your blood vessels will adapt to your change in activity levels within only two weeks.
According to this study,the effects on your blood vessels are so great that after just a month of stopping exercise your blood pressure could go back to the same levels that it would be if you never were exercising, to begin with.
This study kind of shocked me because I always thought that you would maintain at least your cardiovascular benefits for longer, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Now I’m sure if any of you are like some of my clients I can see a lot of people getting demotivated by this fact and being like “what’s the point” right?
If you take a month off your blood pressure shoots right back up what’s the point? Well, that’s true, but according to those standards,
I would then argue “what’s the point of showering or brushing your teeth after 24 hours you have to do it again… every day.
Or else you’re gonna stink. Let’s look at what happens next. Obviously, if your blood vessels change it makes it a lot harder to use oxygen as efficiently.
One of the very first things to go down is your VO2 Max which is the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen you can utilize during intense exercise.
It’s important to note that VO2 max doesn’t just give us an idea of how good your aerobic capacity is with intense exercise, but it also will reflect across all forms of cardiovascular activity.
So….. you know…. when you come back to the gym after going on vacation for a week or two or just taking some time off…
everything seems to get you super winded and your heart rate feels very high even from things that felt pretty simple a few weeks earlier.
Well, that’s one of the drawbacks of your VO2 Max declining. Studies indicate that after just 12 days it’ll decline by 7 to 10 percent.
And that’s a light estimate some studies report that after just 2 weeks VO2 max can decline by twenty percent.
And believe me, you’ll feel even a seven percent decline so that’s a lot.
The reason why this happens when you stop exercising is that you lose mitochondria.
These are mini-factories within your muscle cells that convert oxygen into energy.
One study reported that after just 2 weeks of inactivity the muscle mitochondrial content decreased as much as 6 weeks of endurance training increased it.
So 6 weeks of work for 2 weeks of rest…That’s a big bummer. Next, your blood sugar levels are going to spike up,
and if you’ve been watching my videos for a little while now you know that not only does that lead to health problems,
but high blood sugar also triggers insulin and fat storage.
Normally when you exercise the food that you ate is used as fuel for your workouts,
that’s why you’re always hearing about maintaining an energy balance between diet and exercise.
When you no longer exercise, but you continue to fuel your body with food it’s like continuously filling a car that’s sitting in the park.
You hit a point known as spillover except, unlike the parked car you won’t have fuel spilling over on the ground.
That spillover happens inside your body and the extra fuel spills over into your fat cells.
Your body will first use that blood sugar to replenish depleted glucose in your muscle tissue and then your liver.
But once those are full it’s got nowhere to go except fat cells.
To make matters worse after just a week of not exercising your muscles mitochondrial activity in your muscle cells slow down making your metabolism slower.
So you’re not only burning less from a lack of activity, but your resting metabolic rate is also going down.
I’m sure everyone watching understands that this is a perfect storm for losing muscle mass and gaining body fat.
Paul Arciero published a study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning research that found that a 5-week exercise break boosted college swimmers’ fat mass by 12 percent.
Another study looked at what happens to muscle mass when people took one week of bed rest.
Keep in mind bed rest and not being active is not the same thing, but this study does help give us an idea of what happens to the body when we stay sedentary for longer.
The study was performed in the Netherlands at the School of Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism.
They found that just one week of bed rest substantially reduced skeletal muscle mass and lowered whole-body insulin sensitivity.
This once again is a double-edged sword because not only are you losing muscle mass, but the effects on your insulin levels will make you store fat.
In another study these same researchers found that even 5 days of disuse can lead to a 4 percent decline in muscle mass and a 9 percent decline in muscle strength
Now like I said just because you’re not exercising doesn’t mean that you’re laying around in bed all day every day,
but these effects were noticed after just one week.
If you spend a week recovering while not being confined to your bed all day you’ll probably be fine,
but if you spend a month not exercising even if you’re not bedridden all day just by being sedentary you’re going to experience similar effects.
The worst part is that if you’re in better shape and have more muscle mass you’ll lose more strength and muscle size compared to people that are less fit.
And the last major effect I want to talk about is on your psychology rather than your physiology.
Most of you know that when you exercise your body releases endorphins which hormones that make you feel really good and happy.
Obviously when you stop exercising you can expect to get a little grumpier because you won’t be getting the boost in mood from endorphins anymore,
but that’s just the beginning of the psychological effects of not exercising. Anxiety and stress both go up when you don’t exercise.
This can lead to depression, trouble getting to sleep, and weight gain.
When you stop exercising your body quite literally forgets how to handle stress and your natural stress response begins to atrophy just like your muscles.
But what I find even worse is the effect not exercising has on your motivation over time. You see your motivation to get to the gym and workout snowballs.
Meaning if you consistently go to the gym not only are you making exercise a part of your routine and habits,
but you’re also making it easier to go exercise again next time due to momentum. I call this forward momentum.
The trouble with momentum is that it can swing both ways. If you’re not exercising for a couple weeks or a month you’re creating backward momentum.
It’s a lot easier to say no to going to the gym after you’ve put it off for two weeks, and it’s even easier to say no after putting it off for a month.
Especially when you know for a fact that when you do start exercising again it’s going to be painful
because of all the psychological effects that I already talked about like blood pressure, getting enough oxygen, muscles getting weaker.
All of that is going to increase your desire to push it off and walla you have backward momentum.
Momentum is something you want on your side because it’s no secret that momentum is a difficult force to reverse.
However, the solution no matter how long you’ve stopped exercising remains the same. Start exercising again as soon as possible and remain consistent.
I like to exercise every day because it gives me forward momentum and surprisingly makes it even easier to get into the gym than when I exercise less often.
Remember consistency is the number one key to you getting results and maintaining them for the long haul.
So be consistent and I hope this video helps dissuade you from considering stopping working out.
If you need some time to recover take a week off and do some light bodyweight training for some active recovery.
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thanks for watching, hope to see you guys next time.