It’s a sad but true fact that to maintain your hard-earned workout results, you have to stay fit by continuing to exercise regularly. In layman’s terms – use it or lose it! Without a doubt, you will eventually lose whatever fitness benefits you gained by working out when you stop exercising.
There are many misconceptions about what happens to the body when an individual stops exercising. The most common is that the muscles turn into fat. This, however, is a physical impossibility since muscle cells are completely different from fat cells.
What really happens is that muscle cells become smaller or atrophy and fat cells become bigger. This leads to a change in appearance from firm and lean to soft and flabby.
The main concern of athletes or serious fitness buffs is how fast and how much of the cardiovascular benefits they worked so hard to achieve will be lost due to detraining. Researchers have found that muscular strength will return to pre-exercise levels after only four to 12 weeks of detraining. Muscle size is also reduced. This is why many people notice that their bodies are “sagging” after a few weeks of not exercising.
You don’t have to lose all your fitness benefits if you are forced to stop your workouts because of injury, school or office work or going on vacation.
Researchers have found that muscular strength and size can be maintained by doing one to two weight-training sessions per week. This is good news if you have to stop working out due to a hectic and rushed schedule. By doing just one weight training session per week, you can maintain your strength until you can resume exercising regularly.
However, don’t push this recommendation to its limits. You can’t do a once-a-week routine indefinitely and expect to maintain your strength and muscle tone. Be sure to get back into action as soon as you feel ready!