What happens to your body if you suddenly stop training?

Physio Shelly Chakraborty explains what happens to your muscles, cardiovascular system and your mind, if you suddenly stop exercising, and how quickly you will lose fitness

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Fitness can be divided broadly into 3 categories: physical, cardiovascular (aerobic) and psychological. Exercise/training improves our musculoskeletal system for strength, endurance, control, flexibility or power, while cardiovascular fitness indicates heart-lung efficiency and psychological fitness is our emotional and behavioural well-being.  


How quickly do you lose fitness when you stop exercising?

When we stop exercising, playing a sport or training, a reverse syndrome sets in, which is termed as “Deconditioning”. Depending on our pre-existing health status, degree of training, fitness levels and lifestyle it can set in at as early as from 2 weeks onwards.

What happens to our muscles when we stop training?

Our muscle fibre is made of 2 kinds; fast twitch for strength and power and slow twitch for endurance. The fast twitch fibre loses its cross –sectional area and strength earlier than slow twitch. For example a power-lifter or body builder will lose their muscle mass earlier than a marathon runner.

The eccentric control of the weight (ability to control its lowering) gets affected. The power house of the muscle i(mitochondria), begin to decline. There is a breakdown of protein and storage of fat which causes weight gain.

What happens to your cardiovascular system when you stop training?

Feeling of “fatigue” or “out of breath” happens as hearts capacity to pump blood declines as well as amount of blood it sends out in every beat reduces. This results in lack of endurance. There can be an alteration in blood pressure and blood sugar levels due slower metabolism and body’s tendency to store fat.

Do we suffer psychological changes if we stop exercising?

Studies have shown there is an increase in stress and anxiety levels, mood swings and altered sleep pattern once we stop exercising. Cognitive thinking and memory function may also reduce depending on pre-existing conditions.

The chart below tells about week wise changes in our system;

In case of injury please contact a health professional to understand the do’s and dont’s.

Muscle memory will help those who are normally fit get back in form within 4-6 weeks.

Although, rest (2-4 days) helps the recovery of muscles it is crucial not to let the duration of rest enter the decline- zone. Heavy intense training can be substituted with low level of aerobic activity like walking, cycling or swimming or getting those 10,000-15,000 steps a day.

It is important to have a sustainable form of exercise that includes endurance and control exercises along with strength and power training. In the event of injury/ busy schedule it is advised to stick to low grade exercises and gentle stretching to stop “Deconditioning”.

Shelly Chakraborty is a chartered physiotherapist with Capital Physio


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