So you stopped training at the gym or outdoors, but are you aware of the things that might happen if you simply stop working out?
We are not going to preach to you about not leaving the daily exercise routine, there can be X number of reasons that might be stopping you from stepping into the gym.
One of the questions that we have been asked oftentimes, what changes to expect if someone halts any physical exercises.
Your body may experience strings of changes, gaining weight, losing muscle mass, a decline in strength, decreased cardiovascular endurance, increased blood sugar levels, physical fatigue, brain fog, mood swings are some of the visible changes.
Let’s get into more details to fully understand the changes that your body might experience.
What happens when you stop going to the gym?
1- Muscles Start To Shrink
Carbs are converted into glycogen which is later stored in muscle tissues to maintain the supply of energy to muscle cells.
This stored muscle glycogen also contains a fair amount of water. To be precise, each gram of glycogen stored in your body is bound to 3 or 4 grams of water.
Muscle glycogen stored is lost very quickly as you stop exercising, just because your muscle doesn’t need to maintain additional stores of glycogen for quick recovery.
As you stop exercising, your muscle loses all glycogen stores and water retention which makes the muscles look smaller than before.
2- Body Starts to Lose Muscle
Your body starts to lose muscle mass as soon as it starts to realize that you don’t need those extra muscle fibers.
Your body works on a very sophisticated mechanism, it does not carry anything which is not required. Muscle costs your body a fair amount of energy, and your body starts to shred the muscle mass as you stop lifting weights.
Your muscle will start to catabolize once you fail to provide enough stimulation through proper resistance training.
If you maintain a sufficient protein and calorie intake then you will be able to preserve those muscle tissues for a longer period of time.
3- Your metabolism starts to slow down
You can expect to see a decline in metabolic rate once you stop going to the gym or any other outdoor activities.
Why do we experience reduced metabolic rates?
- The decline in daily activity
- Because of muscle loss
Daily physical exercise (like weight training, sprinting, kettlebell swings) keeps the metabolism elevated throughout the day.
Muscle fibers consume a fair amount of calories for their maintenance, the more lean muscle tissue you have, the more calories you burn daily.
As you stop working out, you can expect to see a decline in metabolic rate because of reduced activity levels and muscle loss.
4- Endurance will hit a roadblock
You can not expect to have the same endurance as you had before. Your body loses endurance because it loses its effectiveness in converting oxygen into energy.
It has been found that as you stop training on a regular basis, your lungs experience a reduction in ‘alveoli’. Alveoli are tiny air pockets that help in storing more oxygen when you breathe in.
In simple words, your muscle is 20% less efficient in using the oxygen within just two weeks of off from the gym.
5- Negative effect on blood pressure
A 2014 study published in PLOS ONE describes the Relationship between the Blood Pressure Responses to Exercise following Training and Detraining Periods.
It was found that just two weeks of detraining could potentially cause high blood pressure due to the stiffening of blood vessels.
6- May start to see a decline in mood
Physical exercise triggers the secretion of Endorphines. It’s a neurochemical that makes the work feel good even after your body is exhausted.
These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine (1).
Endorphins are plays important role in our instinctive reward circuits, Endorphine is related to important activities like physical fitness, and sexual intercourse.
Endorphins minimize discomfort and pain and maximize pleasure.
Endorphine is an important hormone that enhances the feeling of wellbeing and personal motivation. Regular exercise is also found to play important role in fighting depression and mood swings.
A meta-analysis on ‘The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed’ found out “there are now a large number of studies that support the efficacy of exercise in reducing symptoms of depression”
7- More likely to gain fat
People have been complaining about the weight gain after they left the gym.
People who have been regular with weight training or other high-intensity training are likely to gain weight due to a number of reasons. Here is why:
1- Reduced metabolic rate: Your body’s metabolic rate starts to decline once you stop your training. The reduced metabolic rate should be compensated with a lower caloric intake which is not commonly practiced.
2- Reduced protein consumption: high protein diet has been recommended for weight loss (2) but most people start to neglect protein consumption as they stop training.
Protein helps in maintaining muscle mass and also keeps lean, skipping protein leads to weight gain.
3- No macro tracking: it’s common to neglect macro tracking as soon as you stop going to the gym. Maximizing the consumption of junk food and liquor is the main culprit behind your weight gain.
8- Affects your confidence
Regular gym workout improves confidence levels and perceived attractiveness, we all know that.
Gym discontinuation leads to a negative impact on self-image and confidence levels.
Additionally, a lack of physical activities makes you feel fatigued and sluggish.
A 2006 paper published in ScienceDaily on the effects of regular exercise on energy levels – analysis by University of Georgia researchers finds overwhelming evidence that regular exercise plays a significant role in increasing energy levels and reducing fatigue.
Another 2015 study on ‘exercise as medicine’ found the evidence-based basis for prescribing exercise as medicine in the treatment of 26 different diseases: psychiatric diseases (depression, anxiety, stress, schizophrenia); neurological diseases (dementia, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis); metabolic diseases (obesity, hyperlipidemia, metabolic syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome, type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes); cardiovascular diseases (hypertension, coronary heart disease, heart failure, cerebral apoplexy, and claudication intermittent); pulmonary diseases (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, cystic fibrosis); musculo-skeletal disorders (osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, rheumatoid arthritis); and cancer.
9- Blood sugar levels may shoot up.
As you discontinue your daily training, your muscle starts to see a decline in the amount of glycogen is used to store.
Whatever you eat gets converted into glucose, your blood glucose levels stay pretty high once your muscles start to decrease the amount of glycogen it stores.
Elevated blood glucose levels may lead to the risk of heart diseases and diabetes.
Everyone is different, but as a basic rule of thumb, it’s better to be active than not.
Personal fitness is not determined by your attendance at the gym, but by your approach towards it. You can always choose to take stairs instead of the elevator, walk or cycle to the office instead of a car, cook your own meal instead of relying on coffee shops.