From Fit To Unfit – How Long Does It Take?

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fit or unfit

We all want to get into better shape. Many aim to lose fat and others to gain muscle or lean body mass. Flexibility and strength also top the chart. To achieve that we work hard and long. However, due to various life circumstances such as work, injury or family we are unable to train or train at similar levels at all times. We then realize that body takes less time to detrain than to train. In other words, we become unfit faster than the time we took to become fit.

Why Detraining Is Faster

To understand how our body becomes unfit or how the benefits of training fade away, we need to understand in the first place how we became fit. The only way we improve fitness is when we do more than what our body is used to or is habitual of. Gaining strength, flexibility, or running faster or longer, all require to stress the body to adopt new higher levels. 

The time one takes to become fit also has various variables. Age, training level, diet, genes, and environment are a few important factors. Some get results faster while others have to slog for longer and harder sessions. Similarly, few detrain faster than others. It is simply because as we move the stress away which was enabling us to improve our fitness level, the body quickly moves one slot down. If detraining continues the body continues to downgrade the fitness levels. Researches have proved that the training versus detraining varies from 3 times to 6 times from individual to individual. This means if you detrain for one month you may lose the benefit of training anywhere between 3 to 6 months. 

Cardiovascular Fitness

Cardiovascular fitness is extremely sensitive to training. It will not take long when you will be able to see the effects of detraining. VO2 max is the amount of oxygen a person can use during exercise. It reduces by 10% in a month of detraining. Longer periods of detraining can bring it considerably down. For athletes like marathon runners generally see a sharp decline initially. With time the decline rate reduces but continues to fall. 

Strength Training

As compared to cardiovascular fitness, strength detraining effects are a bit slower. It may take up to two months to see the decrease in the ability to lift weights. After about three to four months one will be able to notice a loss in muscle mass. Further, detraining will result in a change of body composition leading to a reduction in muscle mass and gain in fat/ adipose. 

Flexibility And Range Of Motion

Flexibility is also affected by detraining as other factors. Loss of flexibility though can be regained faster if the gap in training is limited to about 3 to 6 months. This means after a detraining period if one starts to train again, initial levels will be achieved faster. Flexibility loss or gain can be seen in as short as one week of training or detraining.

Mental Fitness

The human brain is the most complex organ. It is also difficult to train one’s mind. Like physical training, it may require long sessions of meditation/ mental activities over a long period. It has been proven that the mind is difficult to train as compared to other organs. Hence, one has to be more consistent during training. Unfortunately, the mind is the fastest to detrain. Skipping a few sessions pushes you back many days or weeks. The detraining mind quickly goes back to initial levels which one has without any training. 

A Word From H2FCare

Life is busy and at times it becomes impossible to find time to train. Hence, the best way is to find a way to train which requires less time, equipment, or effort. That way even if you do not further improve fitness, you may still be able to maintain fitness or slow down the effects of detraining giving you more time to get back to earlier achieved levels.

Article by: Capt Jitu Harjai Fitness Expert H2FCare

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