How Long Does It Take To Get Out of Shape?

June 15th, 2015
by Kathy Kres, YAH & Water Aerobics Director, Personal Trainer

So many of us fall in and out of exercise routines on a regular basis. For many, it’s a daily psychological battle whether to go to the gym or skip it altogether.

But once you do achieve your fitness goals and get to what you consider to be “in shape,” what happens if you start slacking? How long does it take for negative results to start creeping in.

The answer: much sooner than you think.

We spoke recently to Shawn Arent, an exercise scientist at Rutgers University, and asked him to tell us how long it actually takes to get out of shape.

Here’s what he told us:

“Within a week. If you stop training, you actually do get noticeable deconditioning, or the beginnings of deconditioning, with as little as 7 days of complete rest. It very much is an issue of use it or lose it.

“Now that being said, we often build active rest periods into someone’s training cycle. So for periodizing their training, if you’ve been going hard hard hard, you have to back off at some point so that the body fully recovers, so you don’t over train.

“Those are planned cycles, though, and any deconditioning would be minimal at best, and in many cases you often rebound a little bit because you push the body so much. But what starts to happen is, you have somebody who’s been continuously working out and all the sudden they miss a day, then they miss another day, another day, then they miss another day, and next time you know it’s two weeks later, then it’s three weeks later.

“The problem is it keeps getting harder and harder to go back to it, and you do start to notice deconditioning in as little as that period of time. You know, with muscle mass, if you’re not stimulating it, there’s no reason for it to maintain it’s hypertrophy state, there’s no reason to keep the same size because you’re not stressing it anymore.

“Cardiovascularly, you notice a drop in plasma volume if you stop exercising, so now your heart won’t circulate as much blood. Well, you don’t have as many red blood cells then so really it very much is an issue and I guess this is why in our field, one of the things we really need to promote is lifestyle.

“It can’t be that ‘it’s an exercise program so it can’t be that it’s a fitness program,’ it’s part of who you are it’s part of what you do, it’s part of your life. And so when you make it a priority, you don’t have to worry about those deconditioning effects. But yeah, you start taking a couple weeks off here and there, and you miss a few weeks, do you decondition? Yes you do … Depending on what your level of fitness was, within a month to two months you can see complete loss of all gains.”

Source: Article by Matt Johnson,