Do you train regularly? Take in a lot of exercise? Have you ever, for a moment, wondered what it might be like if you took a break?

How do periods of inactivity impact your body and your health?

Sometimes we are forced to take downtime. Injuries, family issues, burnout from work and travel can leave us struggling to fulfil our health and exercise goals. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with taking a few days out of the equation. But all too often those days can become weeks and that’s when changes start.

Whether it’s down to issues beyond our control or simply a desire to take some time out, when we stop exercising we often feel uneasy, or can even indulge in feelings of guilt and shame, especially if we’ve set goals.

Inevitably, a lack of exercise and workouts will lead to the loss of progress. Over time we’ll notice anatomical and physical changes, softer muscles and even the loss of muscle volume. Our bodies are telling us that the hiatus is having effects.

What happens next?

Many physiological studies suggest that after the fifth week without physical exercise there will be a notable reduction in muscle mass. The bigger your muscle volume, the more dramatic the loss. Muscle fibres multiply with training and adequate rest, but when you stop training the muscle starts to revert back to your starting position, losing between 1%-5% muscle mass.

As you would expect, with the loss of muscle comes a reduction in strength. Expect to lose around 5% to 10% of your strength. And muscle mass loss will kick in when you have rested over 3 months.

Our advice

Once you’ve started training, then ideally you will continue to regularly exercise and work out. Sure, if you need to go on holiday or take a break (such as some down-time at Christmas) then two weeks is fine to go without physical activity.

After this however your body begins to undergo changes, and you’ll lose efficacy surprisingly quickly – with muscle mass dropping and your capacity diminishing. We believe that if you want to keep your strength and motivation then a 2 week downtime is the most you should go for.

Energy stores

Training doesn’t only take energy. It can also give you greater reserves of short term energy stores in the form of glycogen. Once you’ve gone a whole 5 weeks or 35 days without training, these deposits are reduced dramatically as you have not had to use them. When you return to training you’ll find that you can endure significantly less time at your optimal levels whilst performing at a moderate to high intensity.

Other Consequences

As you would expect – the final effect of not training is weight gain. If you do not adjust your diet when you stop working out, then the calorific gain due to not burning energy through exercise will lead to a slow gain, noticeable on the scales. Physical exercise not only activates your base metabolism, but larger muscles even burn more calories at rest.

How can EMS Fitness help?

One of the main reasons people stop training is due to burnout or pushing their limits to quickly and too hard. EMS Fitness believes in a long term exercise strategy focused on our 4 stage approach: the MSMS method mobility, stability, metabolic conditioning and strength. These 4 elements form the basis of all of our programs, and they’re central to our training philosophy, centred around working your functional and all-round physical condition. – which together with a number of short breaks means that you don’t have to suffer when to stop training.

Give us a call or drop us an email to find out more.