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What Happens To Your Body When You Stop Working Out?

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Putting an end to your regular workout routine has some distinct disadvantages and can increase the risk of chronic diseases. Becoming sedentary when you're used to working out causes several changes to your body -- and affects how you look and feel. Fortunately, whether you cease workouts due to an injury, illness, scheduling conflict or change in motivation, you can always get back on track.

Reductions in Strength & Muscle

When you stop working out for an extended period of time, your body starts to lose strength and muscle mass, especially if you're accustomed to regular resistance training. A study published in 2010 in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise reports that highly-trained athletes who stopped exercising for five weeks showed significant decreases in strength. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that resistance-trained children and teens lose muscle mass and strength gains after a period of about six weeks.

Body Weight & Fat Gains

When you're used to regular exercise and you suddenly stop working out, you'll likely start to notice increases in body fat -- and are at risk for weight gain, especially if you don't make dietary changes when you quit exercising. 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 isn't a guarantee you'll gain weight. If you control -- or reduce -- your calorie intake you can prevent weight gain or even lose weight, because muscle weighs more than body fat.

Decreased Athletic Performance


Regardless of the type of regular workouts you're used to participating in, when you stop exercising you'll slowly lose endurance, power and strength -- which are important components of being fit. Many studies examine effects of exercise de-training over a period of five to six weeks, but you may start to become unfit in just two weeks. A study published in 2004 in Circulation reports that exercise-induced aerobic fitness is lost within two to four weeks of de-training. Researchers who conducted this study note that exercise-gained maximum aerobic capacity in rats decreases 50 percent within two weeks of exercise cessation, and is only 5 percent higher than sedentary control rats four weeks after de-training.

Higher Blood Pressure

Because exercise is known to help lower blood pressure, it's no surprise that stopping your regular workouts can cause increases in blood pressure. 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 discontinue workouts doesn't mean you're certain to have high blood pressure. In addition to getting regular exercise, other ways to lower or control blood pressure include reducing dietary sodium, achieve or maintain a healthy body weight, manage stress, avoid tobacco products and limit alcohol consumption, according to the American Heart Association.

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An experienced health, nutrition and fitness writer, Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian and holds a dietetics degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also has worked as a clinical dietitian and health educator in outpatient settings. Erin's work is published on popular health websites, such as TheNest.com and JillianMichaels.com

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