Be it travelling, illness or any other work deadlines, many people skip exercises which may be due to lack of motivation or time restraints. If skipping the exercises becomes a habit, then both your body plus your strength level will be affected with negative results.


How long does it take to get out of shape?

For a body to get out of shape, there is no hard and fast rule; as your body will tend to remain fit if you are fit to begin with, even though you cease your workouts.

Though a study published that appeared in the Journal of Applied Physiology had said that skipping exercises for two weeks can have a drastic impact on the following –

  • Cardiovascular fitness
  • Insulin sensitivity.
  • Lean muscle mass

According to Dr. James Ting (sports medicine physician from the Hoag Orthopedic Institute based in Irvine, CA), if you stop exercising, the body can get out of shape in merely a matter of two months or more.

But Pete Magill (coach and six times Masters national cross-country champion) had said that a single week of inactivity is enough for a body to lose up to 50 percent of fitness.


Compared to muscle strength, cardiovascular fitness fades faster

Skip your workouts and you are bound to lose the strength of your heart and lungs very fast. A study had found that VO2 max which is used to measure cardiovascular endurance dropped fell by at least 7 percent during the first 12 days without exercise while the blood enzymes (linked with endurance performance) dropped by fifty percent.

While the opposite is also true; studies have shown that even after months of inactivity, newly made gains in strength tends to hold on among ‘newbies’ who have recently started to exercise as compared to those who have been exercising for a long time. However, those who were previously untrained, no impact were seen on their strength levels even after taking a three-week break in the middle of a 15-week strength training.

Regarding the athletes’ muscle strength, a month of inactivity has no effect but yes, some significant changes can be seen in certain types of muscle fibers – slow, fast and super-fast twitch muscles.

  • Slow-twitch muscles (red muscles) – Activated by the cardio exercises and strength training regimens.
  • Fast and super-fast twitch muscles (white muscle fibers) – Activated during high-intensity workouts or sprints.


Long term exercisers have an easier time bouncing back

If you have taken a long break from your workouts, then you will surely be nervous about returning to gym; but you should do so gradually so as to avoid injury but if you are a long term exerciser, then you will have a much easier time blending in back to the gym.

Your age also plays an important role. If you are not regularly exercising then it will take you longer to get back in shape if you are older since the older you get and so will your muscles begin to age. If you are in the group of 65 to 75 year age, then compared to 23 to 30 years old, you will have lost strength twice as fast in the first six months of inactivity.

Even if you are past 30s, then don’t be discouraged as older adults, even after three or four months of weight training can gain a two or three-fold increase in their strength.


Are you skipping workouts because they take too long?

If you are skipping workouts because they take too long to finish, then it is recommended that you need only 30 to 60 minutes of low to medium intensity activity to keep yourself in shape.

But study has shown that this is the incorrect way. You will reap much more benefits if you exercise in short and high-intensity bursts which are also known as HIT. A HIT research which was discussed at the Integrative Biology of Exercise VI meeting held in Colorado had said that HIT uses up more calories in a lesser span of time.

Another study had also said that total abdominal, visceral and trunk fat could be significantly reduced by 12 weeks of HIT apart from promoting an increase in fat-free mass and aerobic power. Another study had also shown that inactive people, but healthy, even if they exercise and that too, for a brief time, then their DNA can produce an immediate tangible change. The study had also specifically said that the production of fat-busting (lipolytic) enzymes increases when you exercise the body as it undergoes genetic activation almost immediately.

Some other study of people with full-blown type 2 diabetes had found out that after a mere two weeks of intense training of three sessions per week, unfit but healthy middle-aged people can improve their insulin sensitivity and the regulation of blood sugar.


What is the optimal time you should rest between workouts?

Exercise can be addicting and once you get going, people either tend to do too much – either by doing so frequently.But you should remember that recovery is necessary for creating an ideal level of fitness.

It is necessary that you should bring down the number of times you exercise so as to give your body enough time for it to recover so that the exercise also remains productive. It is a known fact that as your fitness levels increase, the intensity of your exercises goes up and with that, the frequency of what the body can tolerate also goes down; which is why you need to customise your program according to your levels of fitness.

High-intensity training exercises are generally recommended for not more than four times a week, but you will need more recovery time as you grow stronger and you will have to drop down your exercising routine to around twice a week. Your body needs time to recover and doing any more than four times a week will only put your body under too much strain.


Less is more when it comes to High-Intensity Exercise


Allowing your body to produce human growth hormone (HGH; commonly known as ‘fitness hormone’) is one of the major benefits of high-intensity exercises.

However, as suggested by Dr. Doug McGuff, you don’t need frequent spurts of human growth hormone once you are fit, since at that point, your recovery period becomes important which can take anywhere from two to seven days.


Marcelo is the co-founder and Director of Exercise Physiology at Intense Health, Perth's #1 Private Strength Training and Nutrition Clinics.


Marcelo is the co-founder and Director of Exercise Physiology at Intense Health, Perth's #1 Private Strength Training and Nutrition Clinics.