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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 August 29, 2019

How to Get Through a Weight Loss Plateau (Step-By-Step Guide)

How to Get Through a Weight Loss Plateau (Step-By-Step Guide)

Having a weight loss plateau is perfectly normal. Just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s not frustrating though, and it feels like all your hard work has ground to a halt.

Instead of seeing a weight loss plateau as a roadblock, you need to see them as speed bumps that may get in the way from time to time but, can still be navigated.

This article will look at what causes these plateaus and how you can get through them the next time they may strike.

What Is a Weight Loss Plateau?

The basics of this plateau are that weight loss or fat loss has stalled after a period of progression. But what is the real reason this has happened and why does it occur when it does? Weight loss, or fat loss, has seemed to stall and the first thing to do is to recognize if this is a plateau.

If you weigh yourself daily, you know that there are fluctuations that occur each day. If you are weighing yourself every day, you want to at least be consistent with it. Your true weight will be first thing in the morning after you’ve gone to the bathroom. You want to weigh yourself at the same time and also make sure your scale is calibrated properly. Even a floor that is not perfectly even can give you an inaccurate reading.

It’s important to do this first thing as your weight can fluctuate just over one day, with people often seeing variations of 3-5 pounds. Since there are these daily changes, you want to take a different approach and look at your weekly averages week after week. This will give you a better snapshot at your progress and if you’ve actually reached a plateau or not.

True weight loss happens over weeks and months and that’s why tracking is important. You should see a gradual decrease over this longer time period. Healthy and sustained weight loss will be around 1-2 pounds per week. It’s a linear path that will have small up and down spikes over the time period but should still move progressively downward.

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When you see that the weight isn’t gradually dropping the way it had been over the past weeks and months, that can be your sign you’ve hit a true weight loss plateau.

The Issues with the Scale

A scale gives you some data but doesn’t always show the whole picture. You will not get an idea of true body composition as a regular scale will not show a balance between lean muscle and body fat. You may have lost 5 pounds of body fat, but gained 5 pounds of muscle and the number on the scale would stay the same. That body compositional change, however, would show some great physical results.

The body fat loss would help you appear leaner and the lean muscle gain would also enhance your overall appearance. You could look significantly different while the number on the scale hasn’t changed.

The scale is also not going to reveal issues surrounding water retention or bloating along with the hormonal fluctuations that can cause these issues. You can still check the scale, but a better indicator of weight loss will be with a tape measure.

When you’ve lost body fat, you will notice your clothes fitting differently and tracking your body part measurements can be a great way to monitor results. If you are going the tape measure route, measure these main areas:

  • Hips
  • Right thigh – at the midrange point
  • Waist – just below your ribcage and above your belly button
  • Chest – measure under the armpits
  • Right bicep – unflexed
  • Right calf
  • Neck

You can take measurements on your right and left appendages, but this is a good base of measurement to track progress.

Why Is Your Weight Not Going Down?

This may be because you are doing too much and not getting enough calories at the same time. If you are overdoing it in the gym, it can be like taking a few steps backward. Your workouts shouldn’t be over 75 minutes (30-40 may be all you need) and you want some rest days throughout the week. If you’re working out every day and exhausting yourself, your body will go into that self-preservation mode, raising stress hormones and, again, making weight loss difficult.

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If you are involved in an adequate exercise program (3-4 days per week) and going for a reasonable amount of time, you may need to add in a little more physical activity if you’ve reached a weight loss plateau. This doesn’t have to be overly intense but some extra cardio may help. This can be another 5-10 minutes on to what you are normally doing, or one or two 20-minute walks added on to your weekly amount.

You also want to make sure you’re eating enough and getting into a bit of a calorie deficit[1] if weight loss has stalled. You need not count every calorie but it’s a good idea to take a few days to track your nutrition intake so you at least have a good idea where you’re at.

Many people do not understand how many calories they are taking in each day. Calorie counting is far from a perfect science but to get a rough ballpark figure, the average woman needs around 2000 calories a day to maintain. An average man will need around 2500 calories.[2] There are many factors that can alter this requirement but this is a good starting point.

If you’re not losing weight, you’ll want to reduce that amount by around 300 calories each day and see how this is going after a week or so. If there has been no change, you might need to drop another 200 calories. You don’t want this to go lower as not enough calories can have a negative effect on your metabolism and will lead to stalled weight loss.

Is 1000 Calories a Day Too Little?

In a word? Yes. Your body needs more than that just to carry out its basic functions of living – and that’s not including you getting up and moving around. Even if you were just to lie on the couch all day, your body will need at least 1200 to 1400 calories just to exist. If you are not giving your body sufficient calories, it goes into panic mode. Your metabolism will drop as your body needs to hold on to every precious calorie to sustain itself. When this happens you can kiss weight loss goodbye. The other problem is eventually you will snap because you are so hungry and will eat everything in sight.

When you flood calories into a body with a slowed metabolism, you can guess what they end up being stored as.

Keeping yourself fed with high-quality, and nutritious foods will allow your body to run optimally and provide you with energy to be active, burn body fat, and bust through those weight loss plateaus.

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What to Do When You Hit a Weight Loss Plateau

This is where it’s important to take a step back and have a look at what’s been going on in your life. Tracking your info can be helpful because it gives you some data to observe. You don’t have to be obsessive about it but recording your workouts, sleep, stress levels and understanding your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and basic metabolic rate (BMR) will help give you an indicator where the problems may arise.

If you’ve noticed you’ve been overly stressed with work and life lately, this may be the culprit. When your body experiences stress, it elevates stress hormones such as cortisol. When cortisol is constantly elevated, it can slow weight loss to a crawl. Stress hormones are released in the body as a way to preserve itself. The body will be more likely to hold on to body fat as it believes some sort of trauma is happening and it needs all the backup fuel it can get. At this point, your body is not interested in burning body fat, or building muscle – it’s interested in preserving things.

Higher stress may also lead to a lack of sleep which causes the same issues, and when you add these two together, they compound their negative effects. If you’re seeing this to be the case, it means you will have to slow things down a bit. Make getting extra sleep a priority and you may have to back off the workouts for a bit. Even better, taking some time off from the gym can be a great way to let your whole body, central nervous system, and immune system recover.

This could be a good time to focus on relaxing, meditation, or yoga. You also want to make sure you’re keeping your diet as clean as possible as eating things like refined sugar and carbs when stressed can easily lead to weight gain.

Listen to your body and give it a breather when needed. Doing this will allow it to come back stronger than before.

How to Get Past a Weight Loss Plateau

When you hit a plateau, it’s a sign that your body is becoming complacent. There is no longer enough stimulation to warrant a response from your body. If you remember back to high school biology, you’ll recall homeostasis. This is a state of balance and it’s the preferred state your body wants to be in. Your body is all about self-preservation and keeping things stable. This is an evolutionary response to conserve energy for those times when it may be more needed.

Your body will learn to do things as efficiently as possible and therefore, you will progress with weight loss, and muscle and strength gains for a while – but then it hits a wall. Your body has figured out how to efficiently manage what you’re throwing at it, and this means it’s time to switch things up.

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For workouts, you want to always keep your body guessing. The best workout is the one you haven’t done yet. Your body needs an ever-changing stimulus in order to get more results. The good news is this doesn’t have to be a drastic overhaul. If you’re exercising, you just want to make changes to your routine, exercise order, duration, or repetitions. At the very least, you want to do at least what you did last workout – plus a little more. If you ran for 30 minutes, go for 32 next time. If you did 10 repetitions of an exercise, go for 11 or 12.

You can change the order of the exercises you do, perform some cardio before strength training, add in some high-intensity intervals, or shorten your rest periods between sets. The main thing is to give a bit of a shock to your body in order for it to change.

Final Thoughts

Weight loss plateaus will happen, it’s just all about being prepared for when they strike. Getting an understanding of why they happen is important to progress past them. What’s also important is realizing how your body works, and what it needs in order for it to respond favourably to exercise and diet.

A weight-loss plateau can be overcome with changes in activity, addressing lifestyle issues, and keeping the diet as clean as possible. Recognizing when stress has overwhelmed you, sleep is being neglected, and you need a break will go a long way in helping combat weight loss plateaus.

You also need to be aware of consuming enough calories per day and the issues that come from not nourishing your body properly. Healthy weight loss is all about combining exercise, diet, rest, recovery, and an overall holistic approach for it to happen.

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Featured photo credit: Gesina Kunkel via unsplash.com

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