Tuesday Tip: Losing Fitness? 🏃🏼♀️
An enforced rest from exercise, due to injury, illness or holidays can cause an irrational fear that you’ll lose all your hard earned fitness overnight and will be back to square one. But does it really decrease that quickly?
Loss of fitness when you stop exercising is called reversibility. If you stop training the long term physiological benefits such as cardiac hypertrophy (increased size and strength of the heart muscle), increased blood volume and increased aerobic enzymes will start to decline. It’s true that your muscles will start to atrophy (decrease in size and strength) after a short time of inactivity and your neuromuscular co-ordination will often rapidly decline, which is why you feel a bit all over the place when you come back to it.
A recent study of 12 weeks of rest showed an initial decline in fitness (50% reduction in and 7% reduction in VO2 max), but it then stabilises with only 16% loss of overall. Specific fitness losses relate to your own training/exercise history, types of exercise you do (fitness is maintained for longer if you did a variety of types of exercise e.g. not just running), the rest period, and genetic and lifestyle factors. If you’re a regular exerciser it will take longer to lose fitness as things like increased capillary density take much longer to disappear.
If you can’t do your normal exercise then try other types; your cardiovascular system doesn’t know the difference between running and cross training as long as you elevate the heart rate you can maintain or increase aerobic fitness etc.
Prolonged rest is also not always a bad thing. Although it may seem counterintuitive gains in fitness happen when you rest, as your body needs to recover to allow the physiological adaptations to a training stimulus to take place. Also remember that fitness returns extremely quickly – within 2-3 weeks after a prolonged rest.
So if you are out of action for a little while then don’t stress. Stay as active as you can e.g. walking etc and when you’re back from injury/holiday etc get back to your normal routine and you’ll be back where you were (possibly better) in not time.
Happy Tuesday 🤗xx