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12 Days of Fitness 2015: Day 8 – What Happens When You Skip Your Workout

December 16, 2015 0 Comments

(This is Part 8 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful blurbs and tips to keep your fitness in focus over the holiday season)

A young man sleeps on a couch, with a TV remote control firmly gripped in his hands.

A young man sleeps on a couch, with a TV remote control firmly gripped in his hands.

Back in one of my first semesters of college I had taken an elective entry level economics class. Not super exciting stuff except that the professor got the class’s attention the very first day by breaking down our tuition costs: what it costs per month, per week, per day; what it costs for room and board; what it cost per class per week per day, ultimately showing us what it costs to skip class. While I don’t recall that figure I can tell you that I didn’t skip many classes in any class after that. What if someone were to do the same lesson with the cost of skipping a workout? We can all come up with a million and one excuses but might we be less inclined to skip a workout if we knew some of the obvious and not so obvious costs to skipping an opportunity for some physical movement. I’ll let you decide as it’s always your choice.

  1. Added Girth. Unfortunately the item most people solely focus on when it comes to exercise is how it affects their appearance. Within just a week’s time, your muscles will lose some of their fat burning potential and your metabolism slows. Add to that the fluid retention that happens as a result of being physically dormant and pounds will slowly creep up.
  1. Get Winded Fast. With 2 weeks of avoiding the gym, your VO2 max—a measure of fitness that assesses how much oxygen your working muscles can use—decreases by as much as 20%! One reason why this happens is that you lose mitochondria which are found in your muscle cells and convert oxygen into energy. In fact, a British study found that 2 weeks of immobilization decreased muscle mitochondrial content as much as 6 weeks of endurance training increased it. Not good odds.
  1. Blood Pressure Rises. This effect is almost instant. Your blood pressure is higher on the days you don’t workout than on the days you do. After two weeks, your blood vessels adapt to the slower flow of a sedentary life style thus increasing your readings by a couple of notches. Within a month, your arteries and veins will stiffen sending your blood pressure back to where it would be if you had never started working out in the first place. For anyone who has high blood pressure or a family history of it, exercise is and should be mandatory. You’re dealing with a physiological response that is best handled with physical activity. Period.
  1. Blood Sugar Rises. Usually your blood sugar rises after you eat but goes back down as your muscles and other tissues use up the sugar they need for energy. But after 5 days of kicking back on the sofa, your post meal sugar levels remain elevated. If you stay sedentary, your sugar levels will continue their upward creep and put you at greater risk of heart disease and diabetes. Again, yet another physiologic response that is best handled with physical activity.
  1. Muscles Atrophy. Strength lasts longer than endurance but depending on how inactive you have been, your muscles start to shrink nearly right away. Studies have found that after 2 weeks of complete rest, muscle mass declines significantly. With decreased muscle mass also comes decreased calorie burning potential.
  1. The Brain Weakens. A study found that after just 2 weeks of inactivity, regular exercisers became tired and grumpy. Although evidence for humans is limited, findings found that rats that stopped moving for a week grew fewer brains cells and did worse on maze tests than those who had a wheel spinning workout.

If the drug commercials on TV aren’t enough to scare you, I’d rather take my chances on doing what I can control through regular physical activity than depend on something in a bottle that may or may not be a solution.

See you tomorrow for Day 9 of the 12 Days of Fitness


Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Day 1 – Chew Your Food
Day 2 – Fitness for the Road
Day 3 – The Many Names of Sugar
Day 4 – Side Stitches: Causes and Treatments
Day 5 – The 5 Reasons Why You Should Never Feel Hungry When Trying to Lose Weight
Day 6 – 10 Rules of Fitness
Day 7 – Which Are You – A Chronic Dieter or A Healthy Eater?

About the Author:

Jeff Harrison is a fitness coach based in Pottstown, PA. He received a BS in Exercise and Sport Science from Penn State University and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist (ACE-AHFS). Jeff's articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as consumer oriented websites and magazines.

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