How long does it take to lose shape once we stop exercising?

Losing fitness is easier than gaining it. Since the body positively adapts to the exertion generated by regular training when training the various physical qualities, ie strength, speed, resistance and flexibility, the improvements achieved are lost when the activity is stopped. It is estimated that this loss of function occurs after the first 8 or 10 days without exercise and that by 3 months 30% of aerobic capacity has been lost. Summer It’s a time of year when there are frequent breaks in training.

In the first few days after the end of physical activity, however, the changes are very small As the weeks go by, the effect gradually increases. The factors of it dependent on the rate of loss are: age, type of training, previous physical condition and time spent in physical activity, as explained Margaret Alonsofrom the clinic Emerald physiotherapy, in Oviedo. “Accumulating years of training is not the same as quitting just a month after starting the gym; in this case the loss will be noticed much earlier”.

The lifestyle adopted at the moment of stopping exercise also has an impact. “If we lie on the sofa during our free time, the loss is much faster than if we lead a reasonably active life, for example. walk“.

Another factor to consider is the reason for the interruption in activity. If the cause is an illness or injury, the loss will be quicker because the effort of the organism will basically be directed to the healing of the main ailment.

Capacities that are lost first

The physical qualities lost first are strength and aerobic capacity, followed later from others such as strength, flexibility and coordination, to Alonso. “When you stop exercising, you lose muscle mass and that space becomes populated by fat cells. Cells are created and destroyed as needed. When we exercise, the body creates muscle with strength and shape, if we don’t ask the body for this function, because we don’t exercise, that space is occupied by fat.

Competitive athletes tend to notice the consequences of a lack of exercise earlier due to the training intensity and the degree of control over their skills and outcomes. “They work with very narrow values, so that in a race, for example, they immediately notice a loss of a second, while the amateur athlete needs more time to become aware of this loss.”

Athletes used to working on resistance also take longer to notice the loss, as is the case with marathon runners, for example. On the other hand, if you use very impulsive muscle fibers when lifting weights, which intervene briefly but carry a lot of load, you will become aware much faster, explains the physiotherapist.

Jose Ramon Bahamonde Nava, Degree in Physical Education, Doctor of Movement and Sport Sciences and Professor at the Padre Ossó Faculty of the Oviedo Universitymakes that clear “Fitness is not lost or gained suddenly. It is part of a process of constant change that occurs throughout the practitioner’s training life. We get in shape because we train properly and we lose shape because it makes sense if we stop training.”

Importance of resting the body

Trying to always be in top form is a utopia. And both Alonso and Bahamonde emphasize the importance of giving your body the breaks it needs. “The dynamics of training load tell us that In order to make progress, we need to exercise and rest and there are optimal moments when we are interested in getting fitter, when we train with greater intensity and less volume with optimal breaks so as not to injure ourselves, and other moments when we need to maintain a lower level of form, appropriate for them without losing all gains, and we will train with greater volume and less intensity,” explains Bahamonde.

recovery of shape

Regaining physical form upon returning to exercise will again be influenced by the person’s baseline level and how long they have been without exercise.

“Years of training means it takes people less and less time to get back to their previous level when they start training again. In any case, it will not be the same to train the different skills of strength, resistance, flexibility or even speed,” explains Bahamonde.

For example, in strength training, significant changes and improvements of up to 50% are noticeable after two months of exertion and continue to increase with continued training.

If it has been without training for a long time, improvements and adjustments will be slower. “If you leave for just a few days or weeks (never more than a month), with the right training, you’ll return to baseline in a matter of days. If we stop completely for more than a month, the losses will be significant and it will take the body more time to regain those previous levels.

In any case, a key theme is “putting yourself in the hands of a physical activity and sports professional who will guide the most appropriate training for each situation,” emphasizes Bahamonde.

Maintain form throughout the injury

Alonso expresses himself in the same direction and emphasizes this In the event of an injury-related break in training, it is advisable to see a physical therapist who will tell you “how to maintain physical fitness while recovering from the injury”. And it is that although it is necessary to give rest to one capacity or part of the body due to injury, others can continue to be worked on. “For example, it may be that running is contraindicated at a certain moment, but the athlete can continue to work on his strength. Or for patients who are waiting for cruciate muscle surgery when they come into the clinic, we train the quadriceps muscles very well.”

Muscle has memory

It is often said that the muscle has a memory, so if a trained person stops training at a certain point due to various circumstances such as fatigue, injury or illness, he will be able to pick up the upcoming training faster “Because your body already knows what’s going to happen when it’s under physical stress,” explains Bahamonde. The remaining residual capacity of the previous training process is not lost and only has to be exposed to the corresponding training stimuli again.

On the other hand, the person who has never exercised due to excessive sedentary lifestyle, old age, illness or other circumstances requires an initial adjustment process “To provide a solid foundation upon which to build this improvement process.”

What to do in summer

Summer is a frequent time of disruption to the usual routine of training. Gyms and sports centers tend to see their influx reduced by public holidays and good weather. “But it’s also true that more and more people are changing and joining their indoor routines in recent years outdoor activities and because of the pandemic Covid-19 with more reason”, specifies Bahamonde.

Specialist advice is Try to continue an activity even during vacation times, “albeit with less intensity, duration and if possible also with different activities than the usual ones. that motivates and it helps us switch off from routine.”

And if you want to maintain a level of optimal form, not the maximum, “we have to keep training throughout the summer season, even if it’s at a lower intensity. The key is that each person finds these motivating activities for each moment and makes a constant effort. Exercising should be something that should be part of our routine to improve our quality of life.”

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