This is how quickly you become unfit – and how long it takes to get your fitness levels back up

Guy in the gym starting his workout with mask on - Tifosi Sports

This is how quickly you become unfit – and how long it takes to get your fitness levels back up

Most of us can attest to the fact that the advent of the pandemic also led to a drop in our overall fitness levels. Whether it’s because you weren’t going to the gym as often as you normally would, or because your overall fitness routine was stunted by the restrictions of the lockdown regulations, many formerly top fit people have found themselves more unfit than they’ve been in years, thanks to COVID-19.

You may be wondering just how quickly we start losing the fitness gains we make, and the answer might shock you.

Speaking to ABC News, associate professor in exercise physiology, Nigel Stepto, recently revealed that we lose fitness far more quickly than it takes to gain it. On average, and regardless of the fitness level they’re on at a given moment, says Stepto, most people are about half as fit as they had been after just a week of no exercise.

“Of course the marathon runner’s fitness would still be greater than someone whose main exercise is walking – they were fitter in the first place. But after a week of no training, both would be half as fit as they were the last time they worked out.” said Stepto.

Cardio or aerobic fitness is the first fitness component to be affected, and you should notice it becoming harder to manage certain physical activities just a few days after ceasing training. Your strength levels are set to go down by 7% to 10% after missing two weeks of exercise.

“Most data suggests that you’ll lose at least 70 per cent of the adaptation you’ve built through exercise after about three months,” said sport scientist, Dr Tony Boutagy, also speaking to ABC.

Despite our best efforts, gaining back lost fitness unfortunately doesn’t happen quite as quickly – as anyone who has tried getting back into the swing of things would agree. With this being said, there are certainly immediate benefits to starting a fitness journey again.

In an interview with the Sydney Herald, exercise physiologist Sam Rooney said that, although we generally lose gains about 10 times faster than making them, people will start experiencing the mental health benefits associated with exercise just a week after getting back into a fitness routine. You should notice an improvement in your overall fitness after approximately a month.

Dr Boutagy states that your maximum rate of oxygen consumption improves between 20% and 30% after three to four weeks. And even though it takes much longer to improve cardio fitness than it does to lose it, it’s heartening to know that all is, indeed, not lost – that is, unless you totally give up on exercise altogether.

Never before has the advice to just get started rung more true! We all know that the beginning is the toughest part, but considering what you stand to gain, what do you really have to lose?

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