You might be wondering if you will lose all of the hard earned endurance and strength gains if you take a break from exercise or have an injury that forces you to cut back. Quite simply the answer is yes, the loss of fitness is a given. There are things that can be done to reduce the loss of strength and endurance.
It does not take long for the decline to occur. You level of fitness will determine how drastically the decline will take place. Individuals who are extremely fit experience a rapid drop in fitness during the first three weeks of not exercising. People with a low-to-moderate level of fitness have a slow decline during the first couple of weeks but then have a rapid decrease in fitness conditioning following. With strength conditioning, well trained individuals show little decrease until about 4 weeks after training has stopped. Slightly faster decline happens with individuals who are the low-to-moderate level of strength training.
How do you make this stop? Well, to be blunt you cannot unless you start being physically active again. There are other things you can do to slow down this decline. The best way to avoid losing much of your endurance and strength gains is to do something. Not motivated to run, then walk or cross-train. Tired of cycling, try swimming. Do your knees hurt, try cycling, elliptical or stair-climber. Go outside and go hiking or snow-shoeing. Take your workout to the pool. Bored, try another sport you have always wanted to attempt. The most important thing is to do something that will keep your heart rate up and challenge your muscles. By doing that you will minimize the decline and maybe you will find another activity you enjoy and can add into your exercise routine. Remember, it is always a good idea to check with your physician before starting anything new or after an injury.
Make the most of the day you are given.
Randy Bergman, PhD