Busy lifestyles, illnesses, and injuries can sometimes mean we have to take unscheduled breaks from our workouts. And when this happens, many of us wonder just how long it takes before these breaks begin to seriously affect our health and fitness. Unsurprisingly, this will vary from person to person: for someone who exercises two to three times a week, it can take two to four weeks before vegetating takes a noticeable toll; for someone with a higher fitness level, like a marathon runner, the effects may be faster and more acute.
During periods of inactivity, noticeable changes take place in the body as the benefits gained from exercising start to reverse: the body begins to use oxygen less efficiently, the heart isn’t able to handle increased blood flow as before, muscles shrink and feel less firm, and extra calories that aren't burned off through exercise are stored in the body as fat. As demoralizing as this can be, the good news is that these symptoms are reversible with increased activity. If your time, strength, or capabilities are limited, alternative exercises, like the following, can help you stay active:
- Bodyweight squats. Do a set of 10 to 15 squats every time you get in and out of a chair. To add intensity, grab a heavy book in each hand or hold a jug of laundry detergent against your body.
- Push-ups. Do push-ups against the kitchen counter or on the floor, if you’re able to. Harder variations include lifting one foot or one hand or elevating your feet on a bench.
- Stairs. Take the stairs in lieu of the elevator. Add intensity by climbing stairs two at a time.
- Rope skipping. Jump rope, adding speed or time for a more challenging workout.
- Mix it up. Fill exercise gaps with activities such as bike riding, swimming, or walking.
Source: Washington Post