How Long Can You Take Off From Working Out?
5 months ago
If you were to walk into any fitness store, you’d likely see at least one motivational t-shirt with some saying like “no days off.” And while we are here for the enthusiasm, we can also admit that a “no days off attitude” can be a lot of pressure, especially if you are still building your fitness routine. It’s also just not necessary or even good for the body: we need rest. But while rest is important, how much time can we take off before the benefits wear off and we start losing progress? Fortunately, it is probably longer than you think. If you are about to head out on a summer trip, you may be concerned about when you are going to exercise. While it is always good to incorporate movement into your day, taking time off to rest and recharge without obligations is important. There is no need to stress if you can’t get a gym session in.
Use it before you lose it
Unfortunately, the “use it before you lose it” expression does apply to our bodies. The longer we take off from exercising, the more loss of fitness we see. This applies to both our muscles and cardio fitness. In general, it takes about two months of inactivity to see a total loss of gains. But how much we “lose” doesn't just depend on how long we rest. It is also impacted by how fit we were before the break and varies between muscular and cardiovascular fitness.
Most studies have found that people generally don’t see muscle loss before three to four weeks of time off (although athletes or people who work out at least five days a week will see less impact than people who do not exercise). However, studies found that after three to four weeks, muscle decay rates increase, meaning the longer you take off, the more muscle loss you’ll see. Three to four weeks is good news. You can safely go on a trip and not worry about experiencing muscle loss if you can’t make it to the gym. It is also great news if you have to recover from an illness. You can rest easy knowing that you will not lose too much of the progress that you’ve made.
While you can take about three weeks off from cardio before noticing a huge difference, time off from cardio will feel a little more noticeable than taking time off from strength training. This is especially true for runners. Studies show that runners, especially those who train for long distances, lose cardio fitness even when they just decrease mileage. However, scientists also concluded that some cardio was better than no cardio. Studies have also found that you can generally take a few weeks off with minimal impact:
Nonathletes and newbies:
Good news for athletes and newcomers: while you lose more after that four-week window than athletes (because you probably have less strength and cardio fitness to start), your fitness won’t be drastically affected by taking three to four weeks off. That being said, breaks can be detrimental to a good habit, and exercising is always a good habit to keep up, so avoid taking extended periods off when you can.
Age has an impact:
It pays to get into shape when you are young, because staying in shape as you age takes more work. Age also plays a role in the loss of strength after extended periods of time. One study that looked at the effects of strength training and detraining found that older people, women especially, experienced slightly more strength loss in the detraining period.
The importance of rest
Rest is important, in fact, it is essential to recovery and building muscle. When we exercise, we allow tiny tears in our muscles. These tears are a good thing: as our muscles heal, they heal stronger. This is how muscles grow. The American Council on Exercise recommends that people who exercise intensely should have at least one rest day every seven to ten days, but many people actually need more.
Types of Recovery
Athletes experience different types of recovery. Passive recovery is when you literally do nothing. And that’s good! On the other hand, active recovery includes light movement including stretching and massage. There are also different periods of recovery:
Short-term recovery, which usually includes active recovery, occurs right after a period of intense exercise. This is the cool-down phase, and research shows that it is good to keep moving while this happens. Light exercise or movement during recovery provides blood to muscles so they can start the healing and growing process. This is also a great time for stretching and flexibility or mobility exercises because the muscles have already warmed up.
Long-term recoveryhappens when we rest. Athletes and trainers usually account for days, and sometimes even weeks, of rest and recovery during training programs or between training blocks. These longer recovery periods allow the body to heal, build muscle and avoid injury.
Coming back from a break
If you have needed to take a break from exercise, don’t forget to give your body a chance to adjust when you come back.
Gradually add intensity
Include rest days
Make use of both active and passive recovery
Get on out there with BUBS
Enjoy a break this summer if you want it, and rest knowing that your body (and mind) may thank you. Spending time on vacation shouldn’t hurt you, even if you pick lounging poolside over hitting the hotel gym. Periods of rest are a great time to refuel, and what better way to treat your muscles and joints than with collagen peptides? BUBS Naturals Collagen Peptides are sourced from grass-fed, pasture-raised cattle in Brazil and offer countless benefits, from strengthening hair, skin, and nails to repairing joints. Try them in on-the-go-packets that are perfect for travel or get them on a subscription. Not sure where to start? Take our quiz here!