What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Exercising?

The good news is that you can easily reverse the bad effects of inactivity

 / Shutterstock

It’s only been 11 days so chances are you haven’t given up on your New Year’s resolution to get fit. Congratulations! To keep working on it you should think of the many physical and mental benefits of exercising. If that no longer works, then keep in mind what literally happens to your body when you stop moving.

Nothing worth having is easy, right? It takes a lot of hard work, motivation and consistency to stay fit. Life gets in the way and you will inevitably skip a few workouts at the gym. The body always adapts to new environments but it doesn’t happen in a second. A few misses here and there will not reverse all of the progress you’ve made so far but don’t make it a habit. The effects of inactivity vary from person to person in terms of how quick they are manifested based on age, fitness level, and sport but the end result is generally the same.

A sudden stop

The best workout for weight loss is a mix of cardio and resistance exercises. If you’ve been doing them for a few months now and you stop “cold turkey” and don’t do anything for a few weeks, your muscles will be softer, you’ll feel tired much faster and you won’t be able to carry as much weight. A study showed that people who had just started working out increased their strength by 46 percent in only two months, but when they stopped they lost half of that. The longer you exercise, the slower it takes for you to get out of shape and the easier it is to get back into it.

A gradual decline

So you were the gym fanatic but lately you’ve had time for 20 minutes on the treadmill and a few other cardio exercises. Your aerobic health will stay in good shape for a while but your muscle tone and strength won’t. You have probably lost some muscle and gained fat which is why you won’t see a different number on the scale but your clothes won’t fit as well. Five pounds of fat occupy more room than five pounds of muscle. You need to build that muscle back if you want to lose the extra pounds.

You stopped for six months

Maybe it wasn’t your fault and you were injured. Don’t be surprised by the muscle loss and fat gain. It’s inevitable after so much time being inactive. But after the injury has healed, go back to working out but set a strict program. It’s imperative that you start slowly. Reduce what you’ve done before you got hurt by at least a half.

Regular endurance exercise increases the ability of the heart to pump blood, blood vessels flawlessly send blood to the organs, and there are more vessels that actually deliver oxygen and necessary nutrients to the muscles. So, logically, when you’re not exercising for a while, all of these get affected the opposite way.

1. Your muscles weaken

Jinga / Shutterstock

Your muscles start to shrink after a week of sitting on the couch. Wait two weeks and you’re likely to see significant decline. It will take more time for your body to rebuild the muscle.

2. Your blood pressures spike

This effect is almost immediate. The blood vessels will adjust to the slower flow since you’ve been sitting so much. It’ll only take about two weeks.  After only a month, you’re back to square zero as if you never exercised.

3. You lose your breath fast

You will find yourself gasping you air after climbing two flights of stairs in no more than a week. A few more days and your muscles will need to use about 20 percent of less energy, which means your body will be storing fat. Your body has fewer mitochondria, which convert oxygen into energy. If you had just started exercising and stopped for two weeks, all of the progress you have made will vanish.

4. You become irritable

Just about two weeks of inactivity will cost you your good mood. It has been well-documented that exercising helps fight depression and boosts your energy. Regular movement, even on a moderate level, helps older adults grow a larger hippocampus, a key brain area for memory.

5. Blood sugar levels increase

Blood sugar always spikes after you eat but then it quickly (sometimes) drops because your strong muscles use the sugar because this is they energy. But if you’ve lost muscle your blood sugar stays higher than usual. If you don’t get moving soon, you are increasing your risk of diabetes and a long list of heart diseases.

More readings: 

Skipping Meals May Actually Increase Your Belly Fat

20 Easy Ways to Build Exercise Into Your Daily Routine

6 signs you are addicted to exercise (or are close to getting there)