What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Working Out?

There are many benefits to being active. Functionality and aesthetics, aside, it is a significant factor to disease-free longevity. Regular exercise decreases the chances of getting sick by enhancing the immune response. It also lessens the risk of developing lifestyle-related disorders along the way. Most people know what happens to the body when you start exercising. You burn fat, gain muscle, and improve your functionality. But what about the other way around? If you regularly work out, what happens to the body when you stop working out?

A girl holding little dumbbells smiles as she exercises. What could happen to her body if she stops working out?

Experts have always promoted exercise. When the pandemic came, the sudden shift had become so disorienting. Instead of encouraging people to get out and exercise, the global cry had become to stay at home.

The pandemic is an extreme example of how external events can derail us from our lifestyles. But that doesn’t take away the point that there are times when exercise falls to the bottom of the priority list. When it does, what happens if you stop exercising? What happens to muscle when you stop working out? In this article, we explore the changes that occur in the body the longer you go without it.

Days 1 to 3: Rest and Recover

Some hardcore gym enthusiasts despair at the thought of taking a day off, let alone three. But the truth is that a few days off is as likely to hurt your fitness goals as a marathon runner might get exhausted after the first mile. It can take as much as three days to recover to your best physical state, depending on the intensity of exercise.

Rest and recovery are just as important as any training day. There’s nothing to worry about if your workout routine gets disrupted for a few days. You’ll find that your performance is likely to improve rather than deteriorate after a few days of rest.

Q: What happens if you stop working out for 3 days?

You become well rested and your performance improves.

Day 5 to Week 1

At this point, the lack of physical exertion begins to affect your mood and the quality of your sleep subtly. Exercise is well-known for stimulating a rush of endorphins, resulting in positive effects on mood. Without it, your general disposition might begin to dip.

Moreover, the tell-tale signs of physical deterioration become more than just your imagination. After a week, your aerobic capacity goes from 100% to 95%. Your metabolism begins to slow down due to inactivity. It’s not a major change yet, but you better change your diet or get back to burning off those extra calories. Otherwise, your scale will soon reflect those physical changes as well. 

This is the precipice of a downward slope, but these changes are easily reversed by resuming your usual workout routine.

Q: What happens if you stop working out for a week?

Your fitness begins to decline, but it isn’t obvious yet. If you’re not going back to training anytime soon, you better start keeping track of your calories.

Week 2

Two weeks in, your physical abilities have moderately deteriorated. Your cardiovascular efficiency is at a decline, meaning to say that your oxygen-utilizing capacity is no longer at its best. The few flights of stairs you once scaled effortlessly gain the ability to take your breath away. Physically, the changes become visible. Your general shape changes as your muscle cells shrink and fat cells grow and expand.

More than just physical changes, you might also notice that your mood isn’t as good as it can be. None of the exercise-induced endorphins has been around for a while, so your mood is so-so.  

Q: What happens when you stop working out for 2 weeks?

You begin to see the changes in your body, though others may not see it yet. You’ll also find yourself getting tired easier.

Month 1

After a month, your physical state has markedly deteriorated. The loss of your aerobic capacity hikes up to 15%. If you’re training for sports, prepare to see a significant loss of sport-specific power. If you did a lot of cardio and too little strength training before your month-long hiatus, then you might feel bloated due to growing fat cells.

Detraining, or the return of your body to its untrained state, begins. If you train strength, it isn’t quite as noticeable compared to if you train endurance. But you definitely will feel weaker. It is a possibility that you don’t lose too much strength or muscle mass. (Some research suggests that these may remain unchanged even after a month of inactivity.) Best not to count on it, though.

Q: What happens to your body when you stop working out for a month?

If you used to train endurance (e.g. marathon runners, triathletes), you’ll become markedly weaker and your reflexes suffer. If you train strength (e.g. crossfit, weightlifting), the weakness isn’t as noticeable yet.

Month >1

Your aerobic capacity had declined by 26% from when you last worked out by the second month. At this point, your body begins to show the typical signs of a sedentary lifestyle. If you don’t get back to being active, it’ll only get worse. Your inactivity puts you at risk of disorders and mood disturbances with lifestyle-related factors, such as:

  • High blood pressure (partly due to re-stiffening of your arteries and veins)
  • High blood cholesterol level
  • Obesity 
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Decline in cognition
  • Loss of concentration

Of course, exercise is not the only deciding factor for any of the conditions stated above. There are other methods to avoid them without exercise. Regardless, the importance of regular exercise cannot be understated, especially as we grow and age. Bone mass peaks at between 25 and 30 years old, and muscle mass peaks at about age 20 for women and 25 for men. Afterwards, both bone and muscle mass begin to deteriorate. It puts us at risk of osteoporosis, one of the most troublesome disorders in old age.

Q: What happens to your body when you stop working out for longer than a month?

Your body reverts back to its untrained state, and you become at risk of numerous lifestyle-related disorders.

Now that we’ve given you an idea of what will probably happen to your body if you stop being active, there’s no need for you to try it out. S There are ways to work out at home (or anywhere) without weights and with just a little bit of space. Keep your health at its best through proper diet and regular exercise for a greater quality of life.