3. Loss of overall performance and conditioning
Regardless of your type of workout, endurance is among the first things to go. Besides the loss of muscle mass and density, muscle underuse will lead to decrease of bone density, flexibility, blood flow and energy production. All of this will negatively influence your strength and speed. According to Molly Galbraith, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, strength loss typically occurs within two and a half to three weeks of inactivity. Things are even worse for highly conditioned athletes, who will experience a much faster decline in overall performance compared to beginners.
When you stop working out, you begin to lose the aerobic gains you’ve made, too. A new study found out that highly conditioned athletes who had been training regularly for more than a year and then suddenly stopped lost half of their aerobic conditioning after only three months. Compared to them, beginners who have worked out for about 2 months and then stopped experienced a complete loss of their aerobic conditioning after two months of inactivity.
According to Scott Weiss, an exercise physiologist and personal trainer, with a sudden halt of physical activity there is a decrease of the amount of blood pumped out of the heart and a significant increase of heart rate and blood pressure. Besides that, the size of mitochondria (the mini-factories within your muscle cells that convert oxygen into energy) decreases alongside with a steady loss of your VO2 max or the maximum volume of oxygen your working muscles are able to use, which directly affects your level of performance and overall cardiovascular fitness.
4. Changes in brain functioning
There are plenty of reasons why exercising is good for the brain. It increases the blood flow and feeds the brain with more oxygen, it aids the release of hormones and stimulates a process known as neurogenesis, i.e. the brain’s ability to grow new brain cells and adapt existing ones. For example, exercising in the morning boosts brain activity and protects you from the following daily stresses. It improves the ability to concentrate, promotes good memory and maintains a stabile mood. And you can forget about all of this if you decide to take a longer break away from the gym.
You can also expect to become anxious, fatigued and depressed. Exercise promotes mental health by normalizing insulin resistance and boosting the production of hormones and neurotransmitters associated with mood control, so when you stop working out, your levels of “feel good“ hormones like endorphin and dopamine will drop. This will in turn affect your overall motivation and energy levels, so you might end up feeling increasingly low and agitated – starting up once again will require a great deal of willpower and patience.
A new study concluded that getting at least 150 minutes of exercise a week significantly improves the quality of sleep. According to one of the authors, “regular physical activity may serve as a non-pharmaceutical alternative for sleep disorders”. And when you quit your regular workouts, you will most likely suffer immediate changes in your sleeping pattern and the quality of sleep as well.
Stop rationalizing and think again before you decide it’s time to quit your gym sessions, because you might truly regret it later – only a few weeks later, actually!