In three days, you’re just a little winded but in five weeks, you’ve already gained weight and lost muscle
There’s nothing wrong with taking a day off from exercise, but when a day off suddenly becomes a month off, then you should be a little worried. We can’t always help it if we have to skip a day or two, but don’t take a break for too long. Your hard-earned body can easily revert to its previous state within weeks. From the day you stop to months later, here’s what happens.
After a day: Rise in blood pressure
Skipping exercise for a day isn’t so bad but getting your heart rate up even a little is still necessary. Your blood pressure changes quickly depending on what you do. According to Linda Pescatello from the University of Connecticut, arteries temporarily increase in size during exercise because it has to accommodate the increase in blood flow. It stays that way for 24 hours and if you don’t get your heart rate going even for a little while, then your blood pressure goes back to what it was before. If you want your blood pressure to stay on a healthy level though, you need daily movement for your arteries to adapt.
After three days: Decreased muscle mass
You won’t be able to see any physical changes right away, but you’ll definitely feel it. Elite Daily says that no physical activity will decrease your muscle mass. Your muscle fibers will get tired more easily, and you might not have as much strength when you hit the gym again. It says that muscles that aren’t used in everyday activities, like the abdomen, go down first while the muscles used for walking, like the hamstrings, lose tone slower. This can still be prevented by doing light exercises, so the effect is still short-term.
After five days: Spike in blood sugar
Exercise usually makes your muscle absorb glucose for energy and as a result, it keeps your blood sugar low. If you stay sedentary for five days, your blood sugar stays elevated after you eat according to Men’s Health. If this keeps up, you’re increasing your risks for heart disease and diabetes. Luckily, one week of consistent exercise significantly lowers your blood sugar level and reverts this effect.
After two weeks: Cardio loss
Endurance will be the first to be affected. Around 10 to 14 days, your VO2 max—or your maximum amount of oxygen intake—starts to decrease. This would actually start to reflect on your performance because it affects your cardio and endurance. A study by the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that VO2 can drop to around seven percent after 12 days. It appears that VO2 deteriorates more and more every 12 days so by a month, you can expect around a 14 percent decrease in endurance performance.
After three to four weeks: Strength loss
You would lose your strength a lot slower than your endurance, but your muscle fibers would show considerable change after a month. According to Outside Online, losing muscle doesn’t necessarily mean losing strength. Muscle mass can decline as early as two weeks, but studies show that those who regularly exercise can still retain strength even after three weeks of no training.
After five to six weeks: Weight gain
By this time, you’ll start to notice physical changes. A study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that competitive swimmers who didn’t train for five weeks saw a 12 percent increase in body fat. Exercise physiologist Harry Pino says this is because muscles stop growing and get smaller whereas fat gets larger, making you go from lean to bloated.
It’s okay if you can’t do your intense workout for a day or two as long as you remember to do at least the minimum for the day. Even on rest days, you still need to be a little active. There are a lot of alternative exercises you can do with just a short amount of time, so don’t use your busy schedule as an excuse to quit.