How Your Body Can React If You Stop Exercising

by Isadora Baum, CHC

Getting into a new fitness regimen is a huge accomplishment, as exercise is so great for your body and soul. Yet, it can be hard to always maintain motivation, so when you stop working out for a week or more, you might find some changes in your wellbeing due to the lack of movement. These changes might be positive in some or negative in others. It really depends on the person, the level of exercise you were doing, and how your body and mind feel with the break.

As a certified health coach, I often encourage clients to keep up with steady exercise, but to tune into their bodies and know when it needs rest, needs to move more or increase intensity, and needs to shake things up and try something new. The awesome thing about your body is its ability to gain experience and progress, but if it's overworked and tired, it won't be able to do its job as well. So, what happens when you quit working out for a long enough period of time? While it's an individual experience, there are a few notable changes that commonly occur. Here are 9 things that happen to your body if you stop working out for a week or more.

1. Loss In Flexibility

"People can lose a lot of mobility and flexibility in the muscles after not working out for just one week," says nutrition expert Liana Werner-Gray and author of "The Earth Diet" over email with Bustle. "It makes it harder for people to get motivated to get back into the gym or a workout because they feel stiff. Regular exercise keeps our body flexibility and muscles warmed up and better prepped for everyday life," Werner-Gray adds.

2. Muscle Loss

When you're working out regularly, you're gaining muscle, so when you stop for too long, you'll start to lose it, advises Werner-Gray. You "can feel soft and squishy," says Werner-Gray. "The fat that was being turned into muscle all of a sudden becomes soft and squishy when it's not being worked out on a regular basis," Werner-Gray explains.

3. Decrease In Confidence

If you start to notice changes in your physique, or you're not getting the endorphins that you're used to enjoying from exercise, you might become more insecure and less motivated to get back into a routine, advises Werner-Gray. "People lose confidence after not working out for a week. We need regular exercise to also keep a healthy positive mental state," Werner-Gray says.

4. Fatigue & Stiffness

"Not working out for a week will put your body in a challenging spot and you might feel more sluggish, more stiff, depressed and not motivated to get back into the workout," explains Werner-Gray. Physical Therapist Dr. Karena Wu, owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy in NYC, adds over email with Bustle, "you will feel more fatigued because your body can get lazy quickly and take the easy route."

5. Potentially A Different Diet

When working out, people tend to overestimate calorie burn and eat the wrong things before and after working out, assuming that there's enough time and effort to make up for the splurges. If you stop exercising, you might notice a decrease in appetite and poor food choice, as there's no longer an excuse.

6. Increased Risk Of Disease

When you take too much time off from regular exercise, you're not building enough muscle, and your putting yourself at risk for various medical conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. If you let a week or two turn into a month or a year, you're jeopardizing your health, long-term.

7. Change In Mood

According to Aaptiv Trainer Meghan Takacs, over email with Bustle, "your mood changes." Takacs explains, "since exercise promotes blood flow to the hippocampus, the region of your brain that controls emotions and memory, sometimes when avid exercises enthusiasts stop working out, they may experience mood swings, or changes in cognitive ability." Wu adds, "you can feel more stressed because you are not able to use exercise for stress management."

8. Less Endurance

Takacs also says that "your endurance says 'Bye!'- Within three months of not working out, your V02 max can plummet by 20%. Your V02 max is the max amount of air your lungs can hold for your body to use. The better your V02 max, the better your overall endurance economy is." Alessandro Babini, CEO and founder of the Humon Hex shares over email with Bustle, "typically, VO2 Max is the first fitness measure to be affected, followed by declines in muscle structure, power, strength, stamina, and coordination. Athletes in detraining mode can also expect to experience a rise in sugar levels and blood pressure."

9. Potentially Stronger Muscle Fibers

"It's actually good for hard core athletes to detrain for a while because it strengthens your muscle fibers, so when these people go to train again, they get stronger," says Takacs. "However, if you are new to exercise, it's possible to lose up to 70 percent of your fitness level in as few as 14 days," Takacs cautions. "You can lose strength gains if you do not work out the same muscle group within 2 days of an exercise," further adds Wu. So, if you're just starting out, you're more likely to exercise muscle loss instead.

If you notice any of these symptoms after taking time off from exercise, it's worth getting back into a routine (unless you found benefits). Too much time away from the gym will likely make it harder to become motivated again.

Images: Pixabay (10)