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What Will Happen To Your Body When You Stop Exercising

What Will Happen To Your Body When You Stop Exercising

Engaging in regular exercise improves your overall health, mobility and stamina. It leads to much better consumption of vitamins, minerals, other nutrient substances as well as oxygen in your body. However, in spite of your best efforts, you will eventually miss a workout. And from that point it gets easier and easier to not exercise. Soon you’re not working out at all. If consistent exercise is so beneficial for your health, what happens when you skip a few sessions, take a protracted workout cessation, or when you just stop exercising?

Shortly after you begin detraining (discontinuing your normal exercise sequence), noticeable changes begin to occur in your body based upon your level of fitness. The lack of exercise influences how you look, feel and represent yourself. It hastens the aging process. Your cardiovascular health, muscular structure, brain function, emotions and concentration can be impacted. You develop an elevated risk for chronic illness.

Dr. Harry Pino, Personal Trainer and Rehabilitation Specialist, Exercise Physiologist, Consultant and experienced marathoner, is quoted heavily by many on the subject of detraining. Most of the references come from an August 2015 post by George Dvorsky, io9 blog. In this article, Dr. Pino states that “It’s shocking to see what happens to the body. We start to see lots of changes to muscle, strength, and fat levels—it really deteriorates your structural well-being[…] The fitter you are, the harder you fall.” The better conditioned you are, the faster you lose your well-earned fitness position.

Fitness levels for athletic people decline at varying rates based upon whether strength or cardiovascular losses are at risk. According to Andreas Bergdahl, Assistant Professor, Cardiovascular Physiology at Montreal’s Concordia University, “…what applies to an elite athlete after one week, might take a sedentary individual one or two months to experience.” The precise extent you will lose your fitness depends upon how long you are in the detraining phase and where you are on the fitness bar.

The good part is that no matter the cause for your falling off of the workout wagon – laziness, exhaustion, illness, conflict in schedules, injury, etc. – these conditions can most likely be reversed if you resume your exercise routines and healthy living. And as a reminder of your need to choose daily activity, here follows a detailed summary of what research finds will happen to your body when you stop exercising.

Loss of Cardio Conditioning

Cardio conditioning, or Cardio for short, is a type of exercise for heightened cardiovascular health. When you stop exercising for a few weeks you fail to strengthen your heart and lungs which casts you into a serious sedentary lifestyle. This time of ease causes your cardio to weaken and your body to store additional fat. Have you noticed challenges when you run up the steps, chase the cat or walk a short block? Cardio conditioning falls quicker than your muscle strength; however, it’s a lot easier to regain.

A four week study of nine well-trained endurance athletes on the Effects of detraining on endurance capacity and metabolic changes during prolonged exhaustive exercise concluded that four weeks of inactivity resulted in a 21% decrease of their VO2 max – their maximum capacity to take in, transport, and use oxygen during exercise. It, also, determined that endurance capacity fluctuates substantially during detraining without changes in the VO2 max. Muscle values increased significantly at exhaustion in the detrained state. The elevated muscle at exhaustion could contribute to fatigue in prolonged exercise.

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In a study of Time course of loss of adaptations after stopping prolonged intense endurance training, the VO2 max declined 7% during the first 21 days of inactivity and stabilized after 56 days at a level 16% below the initial trained value. After 84 days of detraining the experimental subjects still had a higher VO2 max than did eight sedentary control subjects who had never trained. Enzymes in the blood associated with endurance performance decreased by 50 percent. Curtly terminating your regular exercise routine harms your blood flow and your heart.

In cardio conditioning, your heart muscle is made stronger. You have a lower resting heart rate, and a healthier lung function. These benefits enable you to work harder for longer periods of time, with increased vigor and durability. Also, you may notice less stress and better temperaments.  You forfeit these advantages when you stop exercising.

Higher Blood Pressure

For the majority of persons that workout, consistent exercise assists with the lowering of their blood pressure. Therefore, it’s a no brainer that when we stop exercising it raises our blood pressure. Despite the general consensus of this claim, there exists significant inconsistency relative to the matter. This is seen in a study on The Relationship between the Blood Pressure Responses to Exercise following Training and Detraining Periods.

It examined the relationship between blood pressure responses after 6 months of training, followed by 2 weeks of detraining. Test specimen consisted of sedentary, middle-aged obese men (38) and women (37) with prehypertension, mild to moderate dyslipidemia (an abnormal amount of lipids, or fats, in the blood), and normal fasting glucose. Test results revealed “considerable variability” in the blood pressure responses; negative correlations were discovered.

Some of the individuals responded and others did not respond to exercise as a means of controlling high blood pressure. Although results indicated that exercise training lowers blood pressure, while blood pressure increases and returns to pre-training values with detraining; several of the study subjects experienced contrary results. They registered increased blood pressure with exercise training; they registered decreased blood pressure after detraining. Obviously this phenomenon requires further study.

Your Blood Glucose Skyrockets

Sedentary living causes your glucose levels to rise. This increases your risk of contracting heart disease and diabetes. When you fail to exercise, your muscles and other tissues cannot absorb sugar from your blood glucose for energy. Consequently, your blood glucose climbs sharply. This can happen even after 5 days of inactivity per an article posted by Prevention.com. All of this results in a larger abdomen from a loss of fat-burning potential and a slower metabolism. Carrying extra weight around the middle is very dangerous.

After one week of exercise, blood sugar levels should start to decrease. This reversal can occur even for Type 2 diabetes per Dr. James Thyfault, University of Missouri. He warns, “If you stay sedentary, continuously creeping glucose readings can raise your risk of heart disease and diabetes.” Strokes, heart conditions and diabetes may be avoided with as little as 30 minutes of consistent exercise a day.

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Muscle Degeneration

Initially as you transform from a fit person to a sedentary person, you are still considered healthy by the exercise physiologists; but, you are labeled a deconditioned individual. So, no matter the reason, when you cease to exercise, there is a negative impact. Muscle atrophy sets in, you start having problems with your joints and ligaments. Your body starts to lose muscle tone and develop muscle atrophy, especially if you’re accustomed to regular resistance training. How quickly you lose muscle mass depends on your age. The older you are, the faster you will lose muscle.

Your quads and biceps commence to shrink rather swiftly. However, even if you are not a highly trained athlete, “within 10-28 days you will notice diminished muscle strength and a loss in power, including speed and agility, mobility, moving from side-to-side, the ability to stop on a dime, and a loss of coordination says Dr. Harry Pino.

Regular exercise can only slow, and not completely halt, muscle degeneration. Within about a week, your muscles lose some of their fat-burning potential and your metabolism slows down. As a result, your muscles won’t convert to fat after you stop exercising – that’s a myth; but, they will begin to decline. Fat will begin to build up and cover them.

Strength Loss

When you stop exercising, your strength outlasts your physical endurance. Strength loss occurs in the majority of people after about two and a half to three weeks of inactivity according to Molly Galbraith, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist; co-founder of Girls Gone Strong. This does not apply to endurance and power athletes with specialized skills. The muscular strength that they have worked so hard to amass tends to decrease at a faster rate.

A study was conducted by the Faculty of Sport Sciences, University of Murcia, Murcia, Spain, entitled the Physiological Effects of Tapering and Detraining in World-Class Kayakers. Their results supported “previous research showing that short-term [Training Cessation] results in larger decreases in muscle strength and power in resistance- and endurance-trained top-level athletes compared with [a Reduced Training] approach.

Moreover, muscle power appears particularly susceptible to detraining in highly conditioned athletes, being lost at a faster rate than maximal strength. These results may suggest the need of a minimal maintenance program of [Reduced Training] to avoid excessive declines in neuromuscular function and fat-free mass in cases where a prolonged break (longer than 2–3 weeks) from training is required.”

Increased Body Weight and Fat

If you take an extended leave from exercising…and if you continue to indulge in the foods you enjoy – keeping your body well stocked with high calorie delights – your fat cells will have a feast, causing your body weight to soar. Less exercise means a lower metabolism and less fat burning. As a result, you gain weight and get fat.

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In February 2014, a study was done with fifty-five professional male soccer players who stopped exercising for six weeks. This research on the Discrepancy between Exercise Performance, Body Composition, and Sex Steroid Response after a Six-Week Detraining Period in Professional Soccer Players’ concluded with definite increases in body fat percentage and increases in body weight by these athletes.

Findings from the study further showed substantial regressions in aerobic, strength, and sprint performance variations. Therefore, off-season training programs are definitely needed by highly skilled athletes for sufficient mental and physical recovery, and to sustain their most practical body composition levels.

Mood and Brain Changes

Without exercise, you have ineffective oxygen conveyance to the brain. Your body is unable to suppress chemicals that cause depression. It cannot release the chemicals that minimize depression. Occurring within a short span of time, these changes make you tired, unable to concentrate, irritable, and gloomy. They entice low self-esteem.

In the article, Depression can damage the brain, published by ScienceNordic, Professor Poul Videbech, a specialist in Psychiatry at the Centre for Psychiatric Research at Aarhus University Hospital (Denmark), stated that “depression leaves its mark on the brain as it results in a ten percent reduction of the hippocampus. In some cases, this reduction continues when the depression itself is over.” Mood changes leading to depression can damage the brain permanently leaving an individual with difficulties remembering and concentrating.

A Finnish research team performed a study using 10 sets of identical male twins between the ages of 32 and 36. Even though they had maintained the same level of physical activity and had maintained similar diets for most of their lives, there exercise habits differed over the past 3 years. The study was small and not a formal Randomized Controlled Trial; but nevertheless, the results were astounding. Two issues brought about major changes in the test results: 1) consistent exercising and 2) the lack of consistent exercising or in one case, none at all.

The twins who exercised regularly were found to have lower body fat percentages. Their endurance levels were higher, and they had more gray brain matter (for information processing), principally in areas controlling balance and motor function. However, the twins who exercised less frequently, living more sedentary lifestyles for the previous three years, carried on the average seven more pounds of body fat, had less endurance, were nearing insulin resistance – a sign of an early metabolic condition and likely type 2 diabetes. This study is a great warning of what will happen to your body when you stop exercising, and how detrimental that proves to be after only a brief time.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Many people around the world are hooked on gambling, alcohol, drugs, and sex. And yet, others are hooked on strenuous physical exercise. When these activities cease, all of the participants undergo withdrawal symptoms. Per the Counseling & Psychological Services Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, people who exercise heavily every day, and who work out to deal with their stress, may experience withdrawals when they stop. They are likely to suffer changes in their sleep patterns, performance, energy levels, and ability to concentrate, or to feel achy and sore.

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Ph.D. student Mia Beck Lichtenstein from the University of Southern Denmark conducted their first fitness addiction study. She says, “If someone who’s addicted to physical exercise is prevented from training, that person will experience withdrawal symptoms like restlessness, frustration and guilt. It’s comparable to alcoholism, where withdrawal symptoms play an incredibly large part in the addict’s social life, family life and working life.

Conclusion

So, once you stop exercising, your VO2 Max – oxygen uptake measurement, is typically first in line to be negatively influenced. You automatically trigger a decline in your coordination, endurance, power and strength; your stamina, flexibility and energy all within a few weeks. These are very important elements of physical fitness; so the loss is severe. Along with muscle atrophy this jeopardizes your cardiovascular system.

So what’s a body to do? You get off that couch and get back on a consistent exercise routine. Just thirty minutes of daily aerobic activity strengthens your heart, improves your whole body and core mobility. If you are injured, sick or bed ridden, talk with your doctor and therapist to find out what kind of exercises you can safely perform. Failure to exercise is a life threatening choice, especially when just stop abruptly.

If exercise is to profit your health and well-being, there must be a conscious decision to begin and continue a structured exercise routine. In addition, it is essential to create and maintain balance between the amounts of exercise and the amount of time allowed for recovery from exercise sessions. Quality must always precede quantity.

Featured photo credit: From LiveScience.com via 4.bp.blogspot.com

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Published on September 21, 2018

How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle and Increase Fat Loss?

How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle and Increase Fat Loss?

“Can I look like you in 3 months?”

The teenager stared at me, waiting eagerly for a response. It’s a normal day as a certified fitness coach and yet again, I had to grab some flying feet and put them down on the ground of reality again.

“If I would be able to reach this body in 3 months, you think it would’ve taken me 5 years?” I responded smilingly.

In the same moment I tapped the teenager on the shoulder and we both went to the training floor together. Fast forward to today, he eventually reached his dream body. But it took him a little bit longer than 3 months.

In this article, I want to give you a broad overview and answer to the commonly asked question: how long does it take to build muscle and increase fat loss?

Your biggest enemy for building muscle and fat loss

I remember when I joined my first gym years back. After two weeks of continuous training, I saw absolutely no difference in the mirror.

I googled “2 weeks body transformation” and was frustrated by seeing all these pictures by savvy marketers.

We human beings have evolved to seek instant gratification. We can’t wait for things to happen tomorrow. We want them today or even better, yesterday.

It doesn’t matter if we talk about business or our fitness results. If we truly want to make a long-lasting change, we have to delay our innate need to crave gratification instantly and focus on the big picture.

In the book called Grit by Angela Duckworth, a predictor for future success in children was the so called ‘Marshmallow Test’.

The Marshmallow Test works this way. Children are basically given two options:

  1. Eat the marshmallow in front of them right now.
  2. Wait 10 minutes without eating the first marshmallow and get a second marshmallow to eat on top.

This is an insane test of willpower and the ability to delay gratification for an even bigger payoff, as a 10-year old school child. If the child already mastered that crucial skill at such a young age, it was a strong predictor for future success.

We all have to learn how to delay gratification better. Most people overestimate what they can do in one month, but totally underestimate what they can do in 10 years.

What you really need to build muscle fast

Your ground zero

It all matters on which point we start off. Because the reality is:

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Everyone has to start somewhere.

A former Olympic athlete will have an easier time building muscles and losing fat than an avid couch potato. There are mainly two reasons for this:

  • The pre-selected genetic blueprint of the athlete.
  • Work ethic of a professional.

While countless of variables play a role in influencing your success in the gym, it all can be traced back to those crucial points. And the saying still holds merit:

Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard. — Tim Notke

A mentor of mine told me years ago that you can succeed in life if you just don’t give up.

You can have average skills, average genetics and average work ethic. As long as you keep improving on your craft, you will succeed.

Not immediately – but definitely and finally.

Setting the right expectations

I’m great at setting unrealistic goals and having the wrong expectations. I wanted to have 100,000 subscribers on my Youtube Channel and at the end of my first year when I started, back in 2015, I ended up with 30.

This is an embarrassing story, but I hope it gets one point across:

Your goals need to be realistic if you can’t deal with the setbacks of not reaching them.

Ending up with 30 subscribers even after pulling frequent all-nighters to get this endeavor rolling was soul-crushing. I contemplated throwing in the towel.

With the right support from my network and discipline, I managed to keep going. The channel has now grown 100-fold in those 3 years.

To find out what is realistic, consider the next timeline.

The muscle growth timeline

Here’s what results you can expect if your main goal is building lean tissue mass. Warning: Genuine muscle growth without performance enhancing drugs takes a long time.

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Of course these time periods can vary individually depending on your genetic blueprint and work-ethic. You might see results sooner, or maybe even later.

The time frame is set to training 2-3 times per week (continuously!).

Pro tip: Ask a friend or hire a coach to boost your progress tremendously.

This is what happens when you decide to join a gym, out of my experience training hundreds of clients:

Month 1-3

Eat – Sleep – Gym – Repeat.

Your motivation is at your peak at this point. You will tell your friends and family about your new workout regime. You will notice slight differences in your appearance, which are mainly nonexistent.

You will experience immense strength gains on your training because your body finally realizes how to use its muscles properly.

Month 3-6

This is the time period where most people break. You will be going to the gym consistently, yet the results won’t come just now. It’s the big dip in the whole process.

Your goal in this phase is to build a habit around your gym visits. You will most likely discontinue to have the all-in mentality as in the first 3 months. You will seek sustainability. Breaking news: It will still be hard.

But in the end it’s all worth it. Trust me.

Month 6-12

“I’ve seen a new vein in my arm!”

The guy came up to me excited. This is the time where the normal person starts to see considerable results in his training.

An old friend will talk to him and see a difference in his body shape. Suddenly, his old t-shirt gets too thin. The frequent gym-goer feels amazing.

Month 12- 24

Fitness is a trojan horse. While you might think frequent training will only change your body shape, your character will be impacted too.

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Your friends and family will notice. You’re more confident, assertive and more happy with your self-image. You feel confident and sure in your abilities because you have achieved what you set out to do.

Breaking news:

You will still not be satisfied. And that’s a good thing. But don’t forget to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

They haven’t come easy.

Month 24+

“That’s what works for me!”

If you’ve been going frequently and consistently (twice every week for 2 years), you can pat yourself on the shoulders.

If you’ve done most things correctly and with a certified coach, you will reach the goal shape at this point. But this is also the point where it can get frustrating.

Further results will come painstakingly slow at this stage. You increasingly have to work on your weaknesses and constantly alter your training to see further results. Be it applying different repetitions, intensity, workout duration, speed or machines.

A lot of people will not see results after this stage because the benefits are not worth the work for them. We have to realize that what got us here, will not get us to the next level.

The fat loss timeline

If you’re trying to lose fat, I have 2 pieces of news for you:

  1. It will come faster. Fat loss has a shorter timeline.
  2. It will be exactly as hard as building muscles, if not harder.

Here’s what you can expect if you’re starting to lose weight. Here again: Proper guidance can speed up the process.

Month 1

“I’ve lost 10kg in the first week!”

Your results will come fast. Too fast.

You will feel exhausted. Most of your weight that you lose will be water. This is the big dip in the whole weight loss process.

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The shocking news: Most people stop their diet in the first month.

Month 2-3

You will reconsider your dieting strategy and opt for more sustainability. You will reintroduce “bad foods” in your diet that you’ve most likely blocked out in the first two weeks or month.

Because balance (and not quitting your diet) is more important to you at this stage than seeing rapid weight loss. Your life quality will increase at this stage.

Month 6-12

At this time frame, you have probably lost more than 10kg. The majority of the people looking to lose weight will be satisfied with their results and shocked by how much of a difference it makes in their appearance.

You will feel more confident, more energized and more self-assured. You would’ve never guessed that you could make it, that you could finally lose your weight – yet you did!

And everyone will notice. “What happened to you?!” – your friends will ask you jealously. Old crushes of you will suddenly initiate contact again just to know what you’re “up to this weekend”.

The fat loss after this stage will come slowly if you haven’t been obese to start with. The goal at this stage is to have created a rock-solid habit out of your gym and eating patterns.

Then you don’t have to worry about the Yo-Yo effect.

Conclusion

“You changed my life!”

The same teenager took me aside at a Monday evening. He had his first date the weekend prior. Apparently it went well.

In the whole time frame we worked together, he built up more than 10 kilograms of muscles. It took him more than 2 years. Yet I’m sure if you’d ask him today, he would tell you that it was all worth it.

Focus on the things that you can control. Losing fat or building muscles might be an overwhelming task to start out with. We have to delay our innate need for instant gratification and focus on the things that we can control.

Changing our genetic blueprint or the responses our muscles have to the training stimulus is not in our hands. But training at least 2 times per week, eating the right foods and setting the right goals and expectations is.

Featured photo credit: Arthur Edelman via unsplash.com

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