What Happens to Your Body After You Stop Working Out

April 10th 2016

Health experts really emphasize the importance of daily exercise, whether that means lifting weights or power-walking in the park. But while the benefits of exercise are fairly well-established, what people might not realize is that your body undergoes some troubling chemical changes if you stop working out.

Here are six chemical changes that occur when you stop exercising for a week.

1. Your blood sugar increases.

When you have a healthy workout routine, your blood glucose level goes up immediately after you eat a meal and then levels out as your body expends energy. After just five days of skipping the gym, however, your blood sugar level stays high. And, according to The Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, “[i]f you stay sedentary, continuously creeping glucose readings can raise your risk of heart disease and diabetes."

2. Your muscle volume decreases.

For every day that you aren't exercising, you're taking a toll on your endurance. You'll find it increasingly hard to keep up with your workout routine, even though you still might keep your muscle tone for the first few days. But after a week, your biceps and quads are going to start to shrink and lose strength; certain muscle types will actually convert due to inaction, from type IIa to type IIx, which fatigues more rapidly, research by Martin Graham, from the University of Copenhagen, as cited by Men's Health.

3. Your body fat builds.

"Within a week, your muscles lose some of their fat-burning potential and your metabolism slows down," Men's Health reports. A study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that college swimmers who took a five-week workout break gained 12 percent fat mass.

4. Your brain takes a hit.

If you stop exercising for a week, your brain is going to suffer. While studies focusing on how sloth affects the human brain are limited, we can draw conclusions based on studies of lab rats such as one recently published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity; research found that rats who didn't move for a week grew fewer new brain cells than healthy, active rats, and they had a harder time completing mazes, too.

5. Your blood pressure increases.

It doesn't even take a week for your blood pressure to increase if you stop working out. On days that you don't exercise, your blood pressure is already higher than on days you remain active. But after a week of indulging in a sedentary lifestyle, your blood vessels constrict and amp up your blood pressure, which can cause damage to your heart and coronary arteries, leaving you at risk of heart attacks, heart disease, and atherosclerosis.

6. You Could Become Depressed

A week-long break in exercise can also have a negative impact on your emotional health. According to a 2006 study conducted at the University of Bethesda, Maryland found that "fatigue and somatic depressive symptoms emerged after 1 week of exercise withdrawal." However, it's important to note that subjects in the study were required to stop working out for two weeks, and the researcher who ran the study said she is not sure if the results would apply to those who voluntarily gave up working out.

[h/t Men's Health]

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