This Is How Long It Really Takes To Lose Your Fitness

Whenever I see clients who have let themselves go and let their fitness fall by the wayside, they’re always disheartened. Always keen to turn a negative into a positive, I tell them to recognise that there’s more good news in this situation than bad! 

The two positives that you can take are: firstly, you’ve identified that you don’t like where you’re at and this is absolutely the first step to change. The second positive is that, encouragingly, you previously had these fitness levels and therefore you’ll get them back much faster than if you were completely starting from scratch. So with this in mind, let’s take a look at how quickly you will lose different areas of fitness and most importantly, how long it will take to snap back into shape.

Cardio fitness

The bad news

Sadly, it’s your cardio fitness that you’ll say goodbye to first. Studies show that the body will start to lose cardio or aerobic fitness within 14 days of inactivity, so you’re likely to find that walk up the staircase at work gets your heart rate up a bit more than usual after two weeks off.

The good news

Getting back to square one and seeing your cardio fitness return will not take a lifetime! Expect to see your cardiovascular fitness return to normal within about two weeks once you jump back on the bandwagon.

Strength fitness

The bad news

Research shows that it can take around three weeks to start losing elements of your strength and muscle, but this will depend on why you’re taking time off working out. If it’s illness that’s put you on the path to getting ‘unfit’ then your muscle strength could deteriorate at faster rate than this, but if you’ve just chosen to a break then it’s unlikely to change after a month of inactivity.

The good news

When it comes to losing muscle and strength and building it back up, the news is a bit more positive than cardiovascular fitness. Once you have built a foundation of strength this is likely to stay with you thanks to a little thing called muscle memory. 


The bad news

Flexibility is an important component of our fitness as its essential to balance and therefore avoiding injury, but the tricky thing is that a lot of flexibility comes down to our genetics. Some people may stretch each and every day yet never see improvements in their flexible abilities. Others may never stretch and find that they can still easily touch their toes.

The good news

If you’ve been blessed by the flexibility stick then the great news is it’s fairly permanently. You won’t need to worry too much about building up your flexibility levels after taking a break but you’re likely to find you’re more sore than usual, so pay extra attention to your warm up and stretching. 

When it comes to building up your fitness levels, the best thing you can do is jump right back on the bandwagon, keep it consistent and get moving every day. Take pleasure in the idea that it’s not going to take you a lifetime to build your fitness levels so try not to get into an all or nothing mentality and let a break from your workouts snowball from two weeks into two months.

Sam Wood is the founder of online training and nutrition program 28 by Sam Wood and Australia’s largest personal training gym ‘The Woodshed’. 

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