Exactly What Happens To Your Body When You Stop Exercising

See What Happens After a Few Days, Weeks and Months.

Download Our FREE
Spartan Race Training Plan
Our comprehensive training plan provides you with 30-days of exercises right up to race day!
Download e-Book

Read This If You’ve Taken A Break From Fitness

Let’s face it, regular exercise is hard. But how long does it take for your body to “notice” that you’ve stopped hitting the gym? Here’s what happens to your body and mind when you take a break from working out.

Hey, life happens. Whether you stopped exercising due to an injury, illness, lack of motivation or pure laziness, you can always get back on track. The consequences of “detraining” listed below will certainly encourage you to start working out again.

If This Doesn’t Persuade You Back Into The Gym, Nothing Will


Many fitness junkies find the idea of taking a day off as a device of Satan. But rest is what makes us stronger. It is the rest that allows the muscles that you have broken down to heal and recover. Taking 1 or 2 days off will allow your body to recover so you can be strong. And thereby handle the increased weight, and increased number of sets and reps needed to achieve your goals.



Within about a week, your muscles lose some of their fat-burning potentials and your metabolism slows down from inactivity. If you do not burn off the food that you consume, it will gradually start to store as fat within your body.

Findings in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research showed a 5-week exercise break boosted collegiate swimmers’ fat mass by 12 percent! 


Gasping for breath after just a few stairs?

Aerobic exercise works your heart and lungs. Within 2 weeks of avoiding the gym, your VO2 max and the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently start to decline. VO2 max measures a person’s capacity to take in, transport, and then use oxygen during exercise. Research shows that when you stop exercising, VO2 max decreases by as much as 20 percent!


What’s more, if you recently started a workout plan, your fitness gains could actually evaporate completely. The reason behind it is that you lose mitochondria – the mini-factories within your muscle cells that convert oxygen into energy.

Cardio conditioning falls quicker than your muscle strength; however, it’s a lot easier to regain.


For a regular exerciser who lifts a few times a week, taking some time off won’t cause much loss to strength and muscle mass. Research suggests that muscle strength fibers remain unchanged after a month of inactivity, but you may see a loss of sport-specific power.

When It Comes To Strength Training, Detraining Isn’t Quite As Noticeable


However, it is likely that you will feel weaker. It takes coordination, and literal muscle memory to lift. Therefore feeling out of sync and not as confident can make lifting heavy weights feel much harder than usual.


The fitter you are, the sooner you’ll notice signs of detraining. But the less likely you are to decline back to where you started.

Seems unfair, right? But since your body is more adapted to constant training at a higher level, you’ll notice signs of detraining a lot sooner than someone who works out irregularly or at a much lower intensity.

The fitter you are, the harder you fall

But while you’ll notice the difference sooner. After that initial drop off, losses will be more gradual than for a beginner. screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-10-28-23-am

When you’re used to regular exercise and you suddenly stop working out, you’ll likely start to notice increases in body fat. Also, you are likely at risk for weight gain, especially if you don’t make dietary changes when you quit exercising.


Contrary to common belief, muscle cells don’t actually convert into fat. What really happens is that the muscle cells – which are completely different than fat cells – become smaller, because now you don’t have a demand for power and strength. They are simply not growing. Meanwhile, the fat cells grow larger, which causes a change in one’s appearance.


The 2010 study found that highly-trained athletes who ceased their workouts entirely had increases in body fat after a period of five weeks. Another study published in 2014 in the journal PLOS One found that soccer players who de-trained for six weeks had increases in body fat and body weight.

However, ceasing workouts does not necessarily mean that you will gain weight. If you control – or reduce – your calorie intake you can prevent weight gain or even lose weight.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-10-28-29-amBecause exercise is known to help lower blood pressure, it’s no surprise that stopping your regular workouts can cause increases in blood pressure. Stiffening arteries and veins send your BP back to where it would be if you’d never even left the couch.

A study published in 2014 in PLOS One found that blood pressure increases to pre-training levels after a just two weeks of exercise cessation. However, just because you stop exercising doesn’t mean you’re certain to have high blood pressure. There are other ways to lower or control blood pressure such as reducing dietary sodium, achieving or maintaining a healthy body weight, managing stress and more, according to the American Heart Association.


What’s possibly most disturbing is what happens to your brain. The image below shows a dramatic increase in brain activity after a 20-minute walk, compared to sitting quietly for the same amount of time.


A number of neurotransmitters, such as endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, and GABA are all triggered by exercise. Some of these are well known for their role in mood control. Exercise, in fact, is one of the most effective preventions and treatment strategies for depression.

BDNF and endorphins are two of the primary factors triggered by exercise that help boost your mood, make you feel good, and sharpen your cognition. Your mental health can suffer as a result of inactivity, negatively affecting your self-esteem making you tired, unable to concentrate, irritable and gloomy.

Further research shows less blood flow to regions of the brain, including the hippocampus which is involved in memory.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-10-28-42-amAs we age and over time we need to work harder to maintain our fitness. If muscle groups are not continuously developed then they will weaken. Also in the absence of weight-bearing activity, the bones are more susceptible to becoming brittle. Also, you will be more at risk of osteoporosis.


Get off that couch and get back on a consistent exercise routine. There’s a difference between breaking up with exercise for good and taking a well-intentioned rest.

It’s better to get in a few, short, high-intensity workouts than skipping exercising completely.


Just thirty minutes of daily aerobic activity strengthens your heart, improves your whole body and core mobility.

Make a conscious decision to begin and continue a structured exercise routine. But remember to maintain a balance and allow time for recovery too.   Just don’t quit moving altogether—your body, brain, and waistline will thank you.



p style=”text-align: center”>Read further on how your body changes once you start eating healthy.

Download Our FREE
Spartan Race Training Plan
Our comprehensive training plan provides you with 30-days of exercises right up to race day!
Download e-Book

Wiktoria Banda

Wiktoria is a content writer and illustrator at Shape.
Download Our FREE
Spartan Race Training Plan
Our comprehensive training plan provides you with 30-days of exercises right up to race day!
Download e-Book