What happens when you stop working out?

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You have the best of intentions, but life sometimes gets in the way of a workout routine. And whatever the reason is, the absence of workouts will cause your body to lose some of the progress it had made. Here’s how an interruption in working out impacts your body—and what you can do to get back on track—for some of the most common scenarios.

Scenario #1: You had a super busy month at work and stopped your usual four-day-a-week workout at the gym.

What happens to your body? Doing a mix of strength training and cardio is optimal for weight loss or control, muscle building, and aerobic health. Stop for a month, and you may notice that some areas get softer, that you’re not able to lug as many heavy groceries, and that you get winded a little faster from taking the stairs. Recent studies found that beginners who exercised for two months, their strength increased by 46 percent, and when they stopped training for two months, they lost 23 percent—half the gains they’d made. When you are getting back into it, go easy. For strength training, start with about 75 percent of the resistance you’d been using—and increase as you can. You’ll be back to where you were in probably half the length of time that you took off.

Scenario 2: You used to weight train a lot, but for the past several months, all you’ve fit in is a few sessions a week on the treadmill.

What happens to your body? You may notice that your strength and muscle tone have diminished some. Without weight training, most likely you have lost some muscle mass and gained some fat.  Add some strength back to your body, and into your routine, to remedy that in short order.

Scenario 3: You ran a half-marathon, which you trained for like crazy, then gave yourself a few weeks to recover.

What happens to your body? For someone who is in good cardio shape this is not a major problem. Just don’t expect to come back at full-speed right away. Researcher recommend easing back in using your heart rate (the zones may have changed from when you were at your peak) and perceived exertion—a seven on a scale of one to 10. Researchers recommend including strength training as a muscle-building complement to your cardio workouts.

Scenario 4: You’ve been really into yoga but now miss the exercise program you stopped a few months ago.

What happens to your body? Swapping one workout for another isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. Just know that if you go back to program “A” after doing program “B,” you may not be able to bring your A-game to “A” as you once could. Unfortunately, training is very, very specific. Which isn’t to say you should stop your Yoga—just include both.

Scenario 5: You got injured and haven’t been able (or wanted) to work out at all for six months.

What happens to your body? In this case, you’ve lost muscle and gained fat especially if your everyday activity level was affected in addition to the lack of workouts. Once you’re cleared to exercise, you need to return very slowly, very light. Researchers recommend upping your protein intake in your diet to help reduce loss of muscle mass during your time off.

 

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