Regular exercise and staying healthy can be tiresome and giving yourself a break is important. But too much time away can have unwanted effects, so how long does it actually take for your body to lose its shape?
Words: Gemma Smith, Subeditor: Shannon Cowley
Living in London can be hectic, which means making time to keep up efficient health and fitness levels often becomes difficult. When we finally get into a healthy routine it feels uplifting but we need to be careful that the ‘taking a break’ part of the cycle doesn’t snowball from three days to 15. Because before know it, being fit and healthy becomes a thing of the past.
Most health and exercise plans make regular breaks a necessity. They allow time for reflection, as well as avoiding burnout and high stress levels. But exactly how much progress is lost when you take a break? It actually just depends on your fitness levels to begin with. Find out now!
Here are some useful facts about what happens when your exercise plan relaxes:
- For the majority of people, loss of muscle strength happens after three weeks of inactivity, says Molly Galbraith, co-founder of Girls Gone Strong and certified strength and conditioning specialist. However, this will depend on just how healthy you are at the time, as the immune system will speed up muscle strength loss if you’re not feeling so great.
- Heart and lung strength will be lost a lot faster than muscle strength during a long resting period. VO2 max (the maximum or optimum rate at which the heart, lungs, and muscles can effectively use oxygen during exercise) decreases by approximately 20% after four weeks of no cardio, according to Greatist, leading health and fitness specialists.
If you don’t usually keep fit, staying consistent with your workouts is key. This is important both physically and mentally as it will give you a sense of routine. Luckily for newbies it is a lot easier to sustain muscle increase during a break but not necessarily muscle strength. Similarly, improvements in VO2 made during new exercise patterns are lost after four weeks of no exercise. So be careful just how long you take.
Two elements that can affect the time you have before losing your fitness levels are age and mentality. The older you are the more likely strength will be lost during times of inactivity, so as a young Londoner you instantly benefit. It’s also important to stay positive and focused, don’t feel guilty about taking time off and remember that it’s a necessity.
So what can be done during a fitness break to limit changes to the body?
One of the most vital things to remember is eating right. Usually, when your body is exercising it craves less junk food. Monitoring these cravings will play a huge role in how much your body changes during rest periods. Try and do as much light exercise during a break to keep your body and mind moving. For example, walking to the shop rather than driving or using public transport will make a difference.
And never forget to reward yourself for your efforts, stay happy and accept your time off. Make new goals and bounce back into a healthy routine as soon possible.