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The Effects of Taking Long Breaks away from Exercise

We all know that exercise is good for us, but sometimes, we stop due to injury, lack of time or simply get tired of exercising after a while.

It’s okay to take an occasional break and rest, but stopping for too long may not be such a good idea.

When we stop exercising, aerobic fitness is among the first things to go. Physical inactivity begins to produce its negative effects very quickly.

If you used to run five kilometres in 20 minutes, you will find that your timings slow by approximately 10 seconds in just a week of inactivity.

After two weeks, regular runners may begin to experience a reduction in muscle power and be slower by one minute in their run times.

With two to four weeks of inactivity, a 12% reduction in performance and a noticeable decrease of muscle power can be seen.

For the elderly, the degeneration is even quicker. According to Dr Cindy Lin, Senior Staff Registrar at the Changi Sports Medicine Centre, even just a few days of bed rest can cause significant functional decline, such as going from being fully independent to not being able to walk without assistance.

We Don’t Just Get Out of Shape, We Get Out of Sorts Too

Regular exercise keeps us healthy and in shape, helps us sleep better and, in turn, makes us more alert and improves our mood.

Exercise also trains our bodies to handle increased oxygen demand as well as increased levels of stress hormones such as norepinephrine.

By exercising, we desensitise the norepinephrine receptors, which means that it will take higher concentrations of these hormones to feel stressed.

Conversely, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to many problems such as diabetes, heart diseases, and problems with joints and ligaments, not to mention weight gain.

There are also the psychological effects of physical inactivity to consider — a lack of exercise has been shown to be associated with depression and lower self-esteem. Part of that has to do with decreased oxygen to the brain.

So ironically, to counter the lethargy you feel about exercising, all you need to do to feel better is to exercise again!

Getting Back into the Groove

If you’re tempted to stop exercising, think of all the benefits you’ll gain... and it’s probably not as difficult as you think.

Just 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week (that’s only about 20 minutes a day) will work wonders for our health and mood.

If you get bored with one sort of exercise, try something else. If jogging doesn’t appeal to you, activities that are of a lower intensity such as riding a stationary bicycle, elliptical or rower can help the body maintain some level of fitness.

Lower-intensity activities give the muscles a different kind of break but one that will not cause them to lose that much aerobic fitness.

If you feel too lazy to get to the gym or one of our park connectors, move to the groove at home. Dancing to your favourite songs at home or doing some jumping jacks while watching TV helps!

Keep moving. Your body will thank you for it and you’ll keep diabetes at bay.

Do consult your doctor before starting any exercise regime, and practise caution when exercising. Remember, safety first!