How Long Does It Actually Take to Get Out of Shape?

From Greatist

This One Small Change Makes It So Much Easier to Stick With Your Fitness Routine

Don’t let anybody tell you different—everyone has skipped a workout at some point. At Greatist, we’re firm believers in cutting yourself some slack and taking time off from exercise when you need to. But we also know how easily three days off can snowball into six, then 10. Before you know it, you’re asking that question we’ve all asked when the gym feels like a distant memory: How long does it take to lose my fitness?

First, it’s important to remember that taking time off now and again is a good thing—exercise inflicts a degree of stress on the body, and any good workout program includes a heck of a lot of rest days, especially if the exercise is very intense. And there’s a benefit to both “active recovery” and complete rest.

That said, “use it or lose it” is pretty much the rule. But exactly how much fitness you’ll “lose” depends on the length of your break and how fit you were to begin with.

If You Exercise on the Regular

It’s a lot easier to bounce back from time off if you’re someone who exercises five or six times a week, or if you’ve been exercising for a while.

Generally speaking, if you’ve been working out several times a week for more than a year, your muscle memory is solid . In fact, with that strong of an exercise habit, scientists are quite willing to drop you in the “athlete” category. And for athletes, your fitness can deteriorate at different rates depending on whether you’re looking at strength or cardiovascular losses.

Strength Loss

For most people, strength loss occurs after about two and a half to three weeks of inactivity, says Molly Galbraith, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and co-founder of Girls Gone Strong. But it depends on why you take the break.

“If you are sick, your body is overstressed, so you’ll start to lose strength after two to three weeks,” she says. “If you’re not sick, and especially if you’re able to get in some movement and light exercise, you can probably take three, four, even five weeks off without significant strength loss.”

Science agrees. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercisepublished a review of several studies on the subject that looked at runners, rowers, and power athletes. For all of these groups, muscular strength fibers appear not to change, even after a month of inactivity. But here’s the kicker: While general strength doesn’t change much in that period, specialized, sport-specific muscle fibers start to change in as little as two weeks without a workout . For example, endurance athletes lose a significant amount of the extra slow-twitch muscle fibers that they worked so hard to accumulate, and the same thing happens for the power athletes and their hard-earned fast-twitch muscle fibers.

Basically the body likes to hold onto strength for as long as it can, but skills that are very specialized for certain sports will decline faster. We’re generalists, what can we say?

Cardio Loss

So what about all the cardio lovers out there who are more concerned with the strength of their heart and lungs? Sadly we lose this kind of conditioning a little more quickly than we lose strength. One study of endurance cyclists found that four weeks of inactivityresulted in a 20 percent decrease of their VO2 max, which measures a person’s maximum capacity to take in, transport, and use oxygen during exercise . The results were more or less confirmed by another study, which found that after 12 days of inactivity, VO2 max dropped by seven percent and enzymes in the blood associated with endurance performance decreased by 50 percent .

But keep your chin up. While your cardio conditioning does fall faster than your strength, it’s easier to regain, Galbraith says. So get back on that horse, cowboy.

If You’re Newer to Exercise

Congratulations on your new-ish exercise habit! But if you’ve hit pause on your trips to the gym, don’t take too long to hit play again. Consistency is key for building new habits, and it’s as true for the body as it is for the mind: If your body hasn’t been enjoying exercise for long, it can be easier to lose the progress you’ve made.

Strength Loss

As far as strength goes, it’s best not to be too concerned about losing your headway, as those famous “newbie gains” make it somewhat easier to retain strength.

For example, previously untrained folks who took a three-week break in the middle of a 15-week bench press program finished the course with similar strength levels as those who didn’t take a break at all . One study even showed that six months after quitting a 4-month strength training program, up to 50 percent of the original strength gain was maintained . It’s also worth noting that among newbies, eccentric strength, that is, the strength used when lengthening a muscle or lowering a weight, may be harder to lose than concentric strength, which is when the muscle is contracted. A study of 13 previously untrained guys found that three months after ending a three-month training program, they had maintained their eccentric strength gains, but not their concentric strength .

Cardio Loss

Once again, cardio is a little more sensitive to time off. One of the best studies of the effects of detraining on recently acquired fitness gains found that VO2 max gains that were made in the last two months are completely lost after four weeks of inactivity .

Other Factors

While your fitness level is key to how quickly you get back to your fitness baseline, there are a few other variables that also come into play.

First, age plays a role in your bounce-back time . When looking at 41 people who were either 20 to 30 years old or 65 to 75 years old, the older subjects lost strength almost twice as fast as the whippersnappers during a six-month “detraining” period in one study .

And again, why you’re taking the break is also a factor. When scientists injected inactive volunteers with hormones that mimicked the stress of trauma or illness, they had a 28 percent decrease in strength over 28 days—a higher rate than average .

4 Ways to Make the Most of a Fitness Break

Whether you’re on a relaxing vacation or stuck on the couch with an annoying chest infection, there are a few ways to stay strong during downtime.

1. Do Light Cardio

“If you’re able to take plenty of brisk walks, keeping your heart rate in the 120-ish range, then you should be able to stave off losing conditioning for a little longer,” Galbraith says. Indeed, training a little will do a much better job of maintaining your gains than totally stopping, especially if you’re able to squeeze in the odd cardio session that’ll train you at the upper end of your VO2 max, like some quick intervals .

2. Incorporate Some Resistance Training

There are plenty of reasons for taking a break, but if you have a localized injury, say in your ankle or wrist, don’t use it as an excuse to completely stop exercising. Cross-train through injuries, if you can. Do some bodyweight exercises, or see if you can try swimming, which is the go-to exercise for a lot of injured athletes. Even a four-minute tabata or two will make a huge difference in maintaining your strength.

“Light, dynamic warmups are also a good way to help keep the body from getting too stiff and to slow the loss of mobility without putting too much additional stress on an overstressed body,” Galbraith says. But if you’re sick from the neck down—think achy muscles, chest congestion, fever—it may be best to rest, she adds.

3. Eat Right

Exercise helps to control junk food cravings, so you may need to try harder to avoid crappy food while you’re not working out. Get lots of protein, healthy fats, and low-GI carbs, and your body will thank you. Eating well will help you avoid any weight gain, which would make restarting fitness all the more challenging. And nutrient-dense foods will also speed up your recovery if you’re injured or ill.

Galbraith also suggests raw honey for its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, homemade bone broths for hydration, and garlic to lessen the severity of cold symptoms if you’re under the weather.

4. Love Yourself

No, not like that. But it’s important not to judge yourself or lapse into self-loathing on account of taking some time off. The gym will be right there waiting for you when you’re ready for it, but for now, do what you can and do what makes you happy. If it’s seeing what life is like without exercising so darn much, you do you! Look in the mirror, say a body-positive mantra, and know that you’re perfect—no matter how often you hit the gym.

How Exercise Might Keep Depression at Bay

 

Exercise may be an effective treatment for depression and might even help prevent us from becoming depressed in the first place, according to three timely new studies. The studies pool outcomes from past research involving more than a million men and women and, taken together, strongly suggest that regular exercise alters our bodies and brains in ways that make us resistant to despair.

Scientists have long questioned whether and how physical activity affects mental health. While we know that exercise alters the body, how physical activity affects moods and emotions is less well understood.

Past studies have sometimes muddied rather than clarified the body and mind connections. Some randomized controlled trials have found that exercise programs, often involving walking, ease symptoms in people with major depression.

But many of these studies have been relatively small in scale or had other scientific deficiencies. A major 2013 review of studies related to exercise and depression concluded that, based on the evidence then available, it was impossible to say whether exercise improved the condition. Other past reviews similarly have questioned whether the evidence was strong enough to say that exercise could stave off depression.

A group of Read more How Exercise Might Keep Depression at Bay

Study Links Athletic Performance to Mortality

Workout

Run 1 Mile

Row 2K

Run 1 Mile

Interesting.  From The University of Arizona.
A study’s participants who were asked to think about their own death before taking to the basketball court scored more points than those in a control group.
Oct. 31, 2016
UA doctoral students Colin Zestcott (left) and Uri Lifshin conducted two studies showing that athletes are subconsciously motivated by reminders of death. The skull shirt worn by Lifshin served as one of those reminders. (Photo: Bob Demers/UANews)

UA doctoral students Colin Zestcott (left) and Uri Lifshin conducted two studies showing that athletes are subconsciously motivated by reminders of death. The skull shirt worn by Lifshin served as one of those reminders. (Photo: Bob Demers/UANews)

It’s not the locker room pep talk you’d expect, but new research from the University of Arizona suggests that athletes might perform better when reminded of something a bit grim: their impending death.

In two studies, the results of which will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, basketball-playing participants scored more points after being presented with death-related prompts, either direct questions about their own mortality or a more subtle, visual reminder of death.

Researchers say the improved performance is the result of a subconscious effort to boost self-esteem, which is a protective buffer against fear of death, according to psychology’s terror management theory.

“Terror management theory talks about striving for self-esteem and why we want to accomplish things in our lives and be successful,” Read more Study Links Athletic Performance to Mortality

What’s the Value of Exercise? $2,500

Credit Getty Images

For people still struggling to make time for exercise, a new study offers a strong incentive: You’ll save $2,500 a year.

The savings, a result of reduced medical costs, don’t require much effort to accrue — just 30 minutes of walking five days a week is enough.

The findings come from an analysis of 26,239 men and women, published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Researchers from a number of universities and hospitals around the country, including Baptist Health South Florida, Yale, Johns Hopkins, Emory and Baylor, decided to see if they could determine what being active or inactive costs each of us annually in health care spending.

Scientists and health policy experts have known for some time that inactivity is expensive at the public health level. Sedentary people are more likely than physically fit people to develop a number of diseases.

The costs associated with treating these ills are enormous. A startling study published in July in The Lancet looked at data from 142 nations Read more What’s the Value of Exercise? $2,500

Exercise releases hormone that helps shed, prevent fat

Workout

8x

250m Row + 10 Thrusters (65/45)

rest 2:00

From University of Florida

runningsquare

If a workout feels like more pain than gain, here’s some motivation: Exercise releases a hormone that helps the body shed fat and keeps it from forming.

A group led by a University of Florida Health researcher has learned more about how the hormone irisin helps convert calorie-storing white fat cells into brown fat cells that burn energy. Irisin, which surges when the heart and other muscles are exerted, also inhibits the formation of fatty tissue, according to the researchers.

The findings, published recently in the American Journal of Physiology — Endocrinology and Metabolism, show that irisin may be an attractive target for fighting obesity and diabetes, said Li-Jun Yang, M.D., a professor of hematopathology in the UF College of Medicine’s department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine. The study is believed to be the first of its kind to examine the mechanisms of irisin’s effect on human fat tissue and fat cells, researchers said.

Irisin appears to work by boosting the activity of genes and a protein that are crucial to turning white fat cells into brown cells, the researchers found. It also significantly increases the amount of energy used by those cells, indicating it has a role in burning fat.

Researchers collected fat cells donated by 28 patients who had breast reduction surgery. After exposing the samples to irisin, they found a nearly fivefold increase in cells that contain a protein known as UCP1 that is crucial to fat “burning.”

“We used human fat tissue cultures to prove that irisin has a positive effect by turning white fat into brown fat and that it increases the body’s fat-burning ability,” Yang said.

Likewise, Yang and her collaborators found that irisin suppresses fat-cell formation. Among the tested fat-tissue samples, irisin reduced the number of mature fat cells by 20 to 60 percent compared with those of a control group. That suggests irisin reduces fat storage in the body by hindering the process that turns undifferentiated stem cells into fat cells while also promoting the stem cells’ differentiation into bone-forming cells, the researchers said.

Knowing that the body produces small quantities of fat-fighting irisin underscores the importance of regular exercise, Yang said. More than two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, according to the National Institutes of Health. While it’s possible that the beneficial effects of irisin could be developed into a prescription medication, Yang said that is uncertain and remains a long time away.

“Instead of waiting for a miracle drug, you can help yourself by changing your lifestyle. Exercise produces more irisin, which has many beneficial effects including fat reduction, stronger bones and better cardiovascular health,” Yang said.

The present study builds on other findings about irisin’s beneficial effects. In 2015, Yang’s group found that the hormone helps improve heart function in several ways, including boosting calcium levels that are critical for heart contractions. In June, Yang and a group of scientists in China showed that irisin reduced arterial plaque buildup in mouse models by preventing inflammatory cells from accumulating, resulting in reducing reduction of atherosclerosis. Those findings were published in the journal PLOS One.

The findings about irisin’s role in regulating fat cells sheds more light on how working out helps people stay slender, Yang said.

“Irisin can do a lot of things. This is another piece of evidence about the mechanisms that prevent fat buildup and promote the development of strong bones when you exercise,” she said.

Want to optimize those 10,000 (or fewer) steps? Walk faster, sit less

Workout

30:00 Row for distance.

From Oregon State University

CORVALLIS, Ore. — That popular daily target of 10,000 steps is a worthwhile goal, but a new study at Oregon State University suggests that if you find that unattainable, don’t despair – a smaller number, especially at moderate or greater intensity, can lead to health benefits too.

It’s especially helpful if 3,000 of the steps come at a brisk pace, and limiting sedentary time also plays a role in healthy readings for cholesterol and other risk factors.

The average American takes between 5,000 and 7,000 steps per day, researchers say.

“Some physical activity is better than none, and typically more is better than less,” said John Schuna Jr., assistant professor of kinesiology in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

“When it comes to steps, more is better than fewer, and steps at higher cadences for a significant amount of time are beneficial. A good target for healthy adults is 150 minutes per week spent at 100 or more steps per minute. And in terms of time spent sedentary, less is better – you want to spend as little time not moving as possible within reason.”

Schuna, lead author Catrine Tudor-Locke of the University of Massachusetts and six other researchers analyzed data from 3,388 participants age 20 and older in a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Their findings were recently published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

The research builds on earlier Read more Want to optimize those 10,000 (or fewer) steps? Walk faster, sit less

HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETE HELPS OPPONENT WITH EPILEPSY, AUTISM FINISH CROSS COUNTRY RACE

Workout

Back Squats

4 reps @ 60%
4 reps @ 70%
4 reps @ 75%
4 reps @ 80%

Rest

Then 4 reps EVERY MINUTE ON THE MINUTE for 10 minutes @ 60%.

From ABC News

One teenage runner in Iowa didn’t cross the finish line first, but many say he’s the true winner.

Evan Hansen, a sophomore at City High, was running in his cross country meet when he saw Adam Todd from Cedar Rapids Washington, a competing school, KCRG reported.

Adam, who has epilepsy and autism, was distracted by an ambulance. When he veered off course to check it out, Evan came to his rescue.

Evan held Adam’s hand for 1.5 miles, pushing Adam on.

“It was pretty amazing actually. I kind of pushed him in front of me when he finished. I wanted him to be in front of me because he finished it by himself, I’d like to say,” Evan said.

As they neared the finish line, other members of Evan’s team ran along with them, encouraging Adam the whole way.

“I can’t tell you the immense pride I felt,” said Jayme Skay, Evan’s coach. Skay said he and the opposing team’s coach both got choked up at the scene. “You coach 20, 30 years, and it’s moments like that, that make it all worth it.”

Adam’s father said his son was thrilled to finish the race and knows he has a special buddy on the course.

5 Running Mistakes Beginners Always Make

Workout

Alternating from the Assault Bike to the Concept II Rower, complete:

Calories
50/50
40/40
30/30

From Health.com

5 Running Mistakes Beginners Always Make

Getty Images

Getty Images

Starting too fast

The most common mistake new runners make: going too hard, too fast. By not easing into it, you end up exhausted much sooner than expected, and the tail end of your run becomes a wind-sucking session. This can make running seem too hard, which can lead you to quit your program all together.

Solution: The key is pacing yourself; running is a sport in which progress is especially slow and gradual. If you’re running outside, downloading a pacing app like RunKeeper (free, iTunes and Google Play) can help you keep track of your speed. Start off at a moderate pace, and gradually increase throughout your run. This will make for not only a more enjoyable run, but it’s also the key to building endurance.

Wearing the wrong shoes

Maybeyou’ve heard this one before, but it’s worth repeating. You may think because your feet feel okay, and Read more 5 Running Mistakes Beginners Always Make