When a scheduled rest day develops into a rest week, or a nagging injury takes you out of the game for longer than expected, you may expect to feel a little guilty about giving up your exercise habit. But do you know what occurs when workouts come to a halt, and it may surprise you. It’s ok to take time off, but there are physiological changes to be aware of.
1. Blood Pressure Rise
In the short term, whether you exercise or not, your blood pressure will vary within a day. Exercise increases blood flow, which enables your arteries to temporarily enlarge to allow for better circulation. They usually stay somewhat larger for around 24 hours, but if you don’t get your heart rate up within a day, your blood pressure will return to normal.
Although everyday movement is beneficial to health, it can take up to three months for your arteries to feel the effects of a gym-free lifestyle. They won’t start stiffening and narrowing until that time, so a few days’ rest won’t hurt. But be warned: if you don’t exercise for a lengthy period of time, it will take another three months of consistent activity to restore your arteries back to normal.
2. Muscle Shrink
The visible gains you earned from a lifting exercise will fade within a week of stopping. However, smaller does not imply weaker. Weightlifting does more than just break down muscles and make them bigger. It actually enhances communication between the brain and the muscles that are being engaged. This means that your “strength” will be defined not by the size of your biceps, but by the real capacity of your brain and muscles to execute a task.
3. Mood Changes
Thanks to a burst of feel-good endorphins, a single hike, swim, run, or cycle nearly instantaneously makes you happier. But if you make that one afternoon outing a long-term regular practice, you’ll notice higher mood boosts every time. If you break the habit, your emotional slide will be considerably steeper.
Additionally, being active may help to alleviate anxiety. Exercise helps reduce anxiety by activating your fight-or-flight reaction, which is the natural trigger for adrenaline, sweat, and an increased heart rate when faced with a threat. When you quit exercising, your body loses its ability to deal with stress.
4. Resisting Insulin
Our muscles digest insulin and absorb the resultant glucose as energy when we exercise. Reduce your energy expenditure, and your muscles will biologically adjust to become less insulin sensitive. When your body loses insulin sensitivity, it transforms sugar into fat rather than using it as energy to power your motions.
While this adaptation enabled our hunter-gatherer forefathers survive a feast-or-famine lifestyle, it is bad news for the modern desk jockey since incorrect insulin regulation might cause your cells to store some of what isn’t utilized in muscular action as fat. Because of this change, you are more likely to develop the underlying causes of other disorders, such as Type 2 diabetes and inflammation.
5. Lung Size Decrease
The greatest quantity of oxygen you can get into your system, or VO2 max, is important since it determines your cardiac capacity and performance potential. After all, VO2 max isn’t everything; you also need to consider exercise economy (how efficient you are) and lactate threshold (how fast you can run or how hard you can push before your quads turn to stone). It’s also crucial to consider what you’ve already accomplished in order to predict where you’ll be after a long pause.
It takes around three weeks to restore the lost adaptations for every week you are idle. If you start at an extremely high level of fitness, this isn’t a big concern, but if you’re just starting out, it may be more difficult (or discouraging) to return to exercise after a time of abstinence.
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