How Quickly Will I Lose Fitness?

At various times of the year we may naturally exercise or train less than usual.  This may be due to holidays, celebrations or simply just being unwell.  

Many of us get hit with workout guilt and we start worrying that we’ll lose all the gains we have previously made, but is this accurate?  How quickly do we lose fitness or muscle strength after inactivity?

Let’s see what the science says.  

How quickly will I lose fitness?

Well, it depends whether you completely cease exercise or just cut down, it also depends whether you are new to the exercise, or a seasoned participant.  

Researchers had sedentary individuals start a bicycle fitness program for two months.  During those eight weeks, the exercisers made significant cardiovascular improvements and boosted their aerobic capacity. 

At eight weeks, they stopped exercising for the next two months. They were tested again and were found to have lost all of their aerobic gains and returned to their original fitness levels.

However, a different study followed sedentary men through three months of strength training, three times a week.  They then reduced their training to one session per week. The researchers found that these men maintained nearly all the strength gains they developed in the first three months.  Reducing to one session didn’t impact their gains at all.  

So, we are more likely to lose fitness if we cease moving completely, and also if we stop exercising for a significant period of time.  

How quickly will I lose muscle strength?

A number of studies have found that athletes can start to lose their muscle strength in about three weeks if they’re not training.  Again, this is when training has ceased completely.  

So a few days, or even 7-10 days missing exercise won’t completely derail your goals.  

Does my age affect how quickly I will lose strength and fitness?

One study followed 2000 participants and grouped them by age (20- to 30-year-olds, and 65- to 75-year-olds).  Researchers put them through an exercise routine and then a period of inactivity.  During the six-month break, the older participants lost strength almost twice as fast as the younger ones.  

But remember, this was a six month break in activity.  

The general consensus is that we probably don’t lose our fitness gains as quickly as we think.  We must cease exercise completely for a period of time before we start noticing reductions in our capacity and ability.  

Top Tips For Maintaining Strength and Fitness:

  • Never stop moving completely – even one session a week is better than none, 
  • Use bodyweight workouts if you can’t access any equipment, 
  • Use fast workouts if you are limited on time, 

Remember, you’ll also be able to reach your peak fitness levels more quickly after a break than you did when you first began training. So even if you do get a little derailed over holidays, celebrations or sickness, you can soon get back on track again and our programmes are perfect for this!  They can be accessed anywhere and at any time!