How Long Will It Take Me to Get Fit Again?

By Linda Dylewicz, PT
Director of Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine

It can happen to almost anyone. You work hard at the gym, do some jogging, put some time in on your indoor bicycle at home – and then, due to lack of motivation, an injury, or just a busy life, you don’t stick with it and fall out of shape.

While it’s true that taking weeks or months off can reverse many of the benefits of exercise, the good news is that you can get back in shape again – just not overnight. If you have been exercising regularly and are physically fit, you can actually start losing muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance in as little as two weeks if you stop exercising. Since regular exercise is very effective at helping your body deliver oxygen and nutrients to your muscles in a more efficient way, one of the first things that declines when you stop exercising is your cardiovascular endurance.

Inactivity has an impact on your muscles too

When you stop or cut back on exercising, the total amount of blood that the heart pumps every minute will decrease. This decreases the amount of oxygenated blood available to your muscles and other cells. If you have been missing workouts, you will really start to notice it around the three-week mark. At this point, energy produced by the mitochondria in your muscle cells drops off significantly – making your workout more fatiguing. After eight weeks, inactivity will start to affect the size and strength of your muscles. At this point if you go back to the gym you will notice you that that you can’t lift as much weight or do as many reps as before. Muscle soreness will also be more likely to affect you a day or two after your workout.

Even a reduced workout can help you maintain fitness

There are some steps you can take to help if you feel you can’t perform your regular workout. If you have to stop a specific exercise because of injury or another reason, try switching to a combination of different exercises or take up a different sport that is low-impact and more suitable – such as swimming, walking or riding a stationary bike. Remember that any form of exercise is better than no exercise!

Be realistic about your fitness goals

If you haven’t gone on a run or been to the gym in 20 years it will take longer to get back in shape than someone who has just taken a six-week break from working out. Keep in mind your body also changes over time. A tough workout you could easily do in your 20s is probably not appropriate for a 60-year-old. But don’t worry, you can get in shape again no matter how old you are and how much time you have taken off. It will just take some time, effort, and patience. Note that it’s always a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise routine, especially if you haven’t exercised in a while.

How Long Will It Take Me to Get Fit Again?

About Linda Dylewicz, Director

One of Reliant Medical Group’s most experienced physical therapists, Linda Dylewicz has been practicing since 1973. With advanced training in orthopedics, vestibular therapy and geriatrics, Linda has a wide range of knowledge and experience to draw upon. Linda enjoys teaching patients exercises, posture, pain management, relaxation techniques and mobility exercises to help them remain as independent and pain-free as possible. She is a...

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One Response

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  1. Posted by Lorraine Mills-Curran

    I really wish you had answered your question. You repeated everything we already know. But offered little to address the question: “How long . . . ?

    I understand that you need me to refer to my own doctor. But I wish you had another headline – because I experienced this as one more restatement of all the issues that discourage me, not as an encouragement.

    February 28, 2024 4:21 pm Reply

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