A good training program can almost immediately build you up and falling off it can have the opposite effect. Known as “detraining” by experts, its consequences can weigh even heavier than the guy you see in the mirror. Fortunately, the condition is fully reversible, as long as you get your butt back to the gym.
Here’s what happens when you stop working out.
An instant effect: Your blood pressure is higher on the days you don’t exercise than the days you do. Your blood vessels adapt to the slower flow of a sedentary lifestyle after just 2 weeks, which clicks your readings up another couple of notches, according to a recent study in the journal PLoS. You can reverse the scenario when you start sweating again. Your blood pressure drops a bit that day and your blood vessels begin to function more efficiently within a week.
Normally, after you eat, your blood glucose rises, then drops as your muscles and other tissues suck up the sugar they need for energy. But after 5 days of not working out, your post-meal blood sugar levels remain elevated instead, according to a recent study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Staying sedentary will make your glucose readings to creep continuously which will raise your risk of heart disease and diabetes, says study coauthor James Thyfault, Ph.D., of the University of Missouri. Regularly exercise for just one week and see your post-meal blood sugar drop dramatically. This has been seen even in people with type 2 diabetes.
Within 2 weeks of avoiding the gym, your VO2 max—a measure of fitness that assesses how much oxygen your working muscles can use—decreases by as much as 20 percent, says exercise physiologist Stacy Sims, PhD, M.Sc. And this could make you gasping for breath even after a few stairs. The reason behind it is that you lose mitochondria; they are the mini-factories within your muscle cells that convert that oxygen into energy. In fact, in a recent British study, 2 weeks of immobilization decreased muscle mitochondrial content as much as 6 weeks of endurance training increased it. You can rebuild those mitochondria with exercise.
Just 2 weeks on the sidelines turned regular exercisers tired and grumpy, found a recent study in the journal Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity. And though the human evidence is limited, rat studies presented at a recent Society for Neuroscience conference suggest animals that stop moving for just a week grow fewer new brain cells and do worse on maze tests than those who stick to a steady wheel-running routine. Exercise Can Fight Depression—it produces a near-instant mood lift, even for people who struggle with the disorder, found recent research in the Journal Abnormal Psychology.
The good news is that it’s never too late to re-start an exercise habit to get back into shape. So, if you have embraced slothfulness recently, it is time you shed it and start working out again.
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