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What Happens When You Stop Exercising

Recently I have noticed previous Optimum clients remaking their commitment to their health after a long hiatus from exercise. I was chatting to other staff members across our clinics and we all agree that there has been a lot of people come back into our programs. In most cases they have left Optimum to engage in an unsupervised independent home or gym program but have failed to maintain a sufficient dose of exercise to get any benefit from it. Unfortunately, the numerous health-boosting adaptations of exercise are not permanent unless you continue to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle throughout the lifespan. This is why when you come to Optimum we constantly preach that this is a lifestyle change not a quick fix or band aid.

So…what actually happens when you stop exercising?

Loss in oxygen stored

So what can you expect when you stop exercising? After just 2 weeks of no exercise, you are going to begin to find it more difficult to perform during cardiovascular exercise. Your Vo2, which is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use and a measure of your fitness, can drop by 10% in 2 weeks. By 3 months of insufficient physical activity, your Vo2 can drop by 20%! After 2 weeks of inactivity there will be a notable increase in blood pressure and blood glucose levels. 

Muscle mass decline

There will also be a decline in muscle mass after 2 -4 weeks. As a result strength, speed, agility balance and coordination also begin to decline after stopping weight training. Muscle mass will start to decrease, fibers will lose their fat-burning capabilities, and you’ll begin to lose that strength you took so much time to develop. Muscles that are rarely used in your day-to-day life like your abdomen are the fastest to lose tone, while muscles like your hamstrings which you use to walk around will decline at a slower pace.This is important especially in people at high risk of falling such as the elderly. The resulting loss in muscle mass also leads to a decrease in metabolism, which will lead to an increase in body fat. This change puts you at greater risk of conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and inflammation.

Impact on the brain

Stopping exercise also a significant effect on the brain. When we exercise the brain releases feel good chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. The brain also produces protein, which protect us from, the effects of stress. A single swimming session, run, bike or hike almost instantly makes you happier. But turn that one afternoon outing into a long-term daily habit and you’ll see bigger boosts to your mood every time. Once we stop exercising you miss out on the influx of these chemicals, which decreases our mood and increases feelings of depression and stress.

So why have I told you all this? I want to encourage you through your holiday periods. You must remember your commitment to your health and maintain your exercise consistency and maintain your physical activity levels while you’re away on holidays.

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