What Happens To Your Body When You Stop Exercising? We Found Out..

Taking an extended hiatus from the gym? Here's what changes you can expect to see and how long it'll take to get back on track.

When you stop exercising

One skipped session in the gym, turned into two, two into three, and three… well you get the picture. But just how bad is it to go gym-free for a considerable amount of time? We found out…


After a few missed sessions, all the benefits you’ve gained from exercise; think strength, flexibility, coordination, endurance and a super speedy metabolism start to decline in a process known as detraining. You’ll also experience a rise in blood sugar and blood pressure levels, as your body adjusts to being sedentary, and it’s regular gym goers, not gym newbies, who will be hit hardest by this phase.

Muscle and fat

Next, a lack of exercise will have a determential effect on your muscle mass and body fat percentage. Within the first two exercise-free weeks your muscle cells become smaller and the fat cells grow larger, meaning any muscle you have built up will begin to lose definition. You might start to feel ‘puffy’ and notice a decline in your energy levels too.

Long-term health problems

If you’ve skipped the gym for even longer, say a month or more, your confidence and self esteem may take a hit. This is because working out helps to oxygenate the brain, meaning it functions better. In turn this helps to regulate stress, and boost your mood.

In the long-term you may also be affected by more serious health effects such as joint problems, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Muscle memory

But it’s not all bad news for those wanting to get back in the game after an extended break.

“The good news for those who have taken a few weeks (or months!) off training is that there is a phenomenon called muscle memory,” explains certified personal trainer Siobhan O’Hagan. “Without getting too deep into the science of it, basically, your brain remembers motor patterns so if the sofa has beaten the squat rack for a few weeks, you will still have an advantage over those who are starting fresh!

“This is especially true for those who do resistance or weight training,” she continues. “The muscle you have built may diminish in the weeks off training but muscle memory means that you won’t be long recovering your gains.” In other words, even if you’ve taken some time off, you can still get back on track.

Siobhan’s top tips for getting back on the wagon

  • Remember which type of training you enjoy and start back with that. If you don’t like running, there is no point in pounding the pavement. If you prefer swimming to squats, get in the pool and not the rack.
  • Focus on your goals and remember why you are doing the training. How did you feel when you weren’t training? Sluggish? Then remember the great feeling you would get during and after training. Endorphins are great for the mind too!
  • Start now. Even if it means only getting off the couch and going for a walk. You will never regret a workout and there is no time like the present!
  • Contact a professional. If you are feeling a bit lost with your training or just need a push to get you back on track, a personal trainer might be able to help you with your programme and make sure your training is effective towards your goals.

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