How Long Does It Take to Get Out of Shape?

By Randy Palladino

Colder temperatures and fewer daylight hours make it more difficult to stay active and motivated. But how long does it take to actually get out of shape? It varies from person to person, but most experts agree that it’s pretty simple: you either use it or you lose it.

 

After a few days

No change. A day off gives your body time to recover and grow stronger, so don’t worry about missing a day here or there. In addition to preventing overtraining, which can lead to injuries, rest days can also bring a much-needed mental break.

After one week

Cardio fitness starts to decline in the form of a slightly lower VO2 max – a measure of the lung’s ability to do work – meaning you might be a little more winded than usual doing a task you’re used to. During this time, blood sugar and blood pressure levels also begin to rise.

A week off won’t cause huge drops in muscle strength or cardio ability, but it could signal that you’re falling out of your regular routine.


After two to three weeks

This is when most people start to notice losses in strength and endurance. Cardio fitness levels decrease about 10-20 percent. Muscular strength tends to stick around a little longer, but a few weeks off can still lead to a 20-25 percent loss in strength. A layoff this long may also negatively affect your mood, stress level and even the quality of your sleep.

 

Consider some indoor and outdoor activities to maintain your fitness level during the winter months. If you’ve been inactive this winter, remember to start slow – trying to lift or run as much as you did before could lead to injury and even more time off.

  • Get in a workout at home with simple bodyweight exercises that don’t require equipment.
  • Workout programs on DVD and Blu-ray are available for all fitness levels.
  • Go for a walk or jog around the neighborhood or explore some local hiking trails.
  • Find an activity the whole family can enjoy, like sledding or ice skating.
  • Participate in a winter sport like skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing.

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