Rest weeks are inevitable. Illness, vacations, heck, just plain old life forces us to prioritize and place working out on the back burner at times.
I don't know about you, but whenever I'm forced to take a week or two (gasp!) off I feel horrible. I have less energy and by day three I'm convinced I've lost muscle tone and gained a minimum of 10 pounds (insert the Michelin man). Oh, and that first WOD after taking a week or two off? Killer.
Is it all in our heads? Do we really experience muscular and metabolic changes after a couple weeks off? Researchers weigh in.
How Two Weeks of Rest Impacts Your Body
New research says just two weeks without consistent physical activity can lead to muscular and metabolic changes that increase a person’s risk of diabetes, heart disease, and even premature death. That's enough to send anyone back to the gym! Here's the nitty gritty on the study.
The study took a group of normal-to-overweight young adults (men and women aged 25-28 years old) who walked an average of 10,000 steps a day. Their fat, muscle mass, mitochondrial function and physical fitness were all recorded at the outset of the study.
The participants spent two weeks being 80 percent less active than what they were used to. After two weeks the group had gained weight, lost muscle mass, and their total body fat had increased, particularly around the abdomen. Also, they were unable to perform cardio exercises at the same time and intensity that they could before the study began. Scary, right?
Balance is Key
With research like that available it's all too easy to find ourselves obsessed with our fitness routines, but balance is necessary. If you're sick your body needs rest to heal. Taking time to travel with loved ones is vital for mind, body, and soul. And recovery days (or weeks) are called recovery for a reason. Training breaks the body down, but rest builds it back up - stronger and faster than before.
Clearly balance is needed. If you're planning time off, avoid becoming one with the couch for a week-long Netflix binge. Get outside, be active, live life AMRAP. If you're sick, give your body the space it needs to heal. It deserves that. As long as that sedentary week doesn't turn into a new lifestyle, you'll bounce back.
In fact, when the participants got back to their active lifestyles, their health markers returned to normal within two weeks. The effects were entirely reversible. The takeaway: embrace rest weeks but come back ready to work. Your body will bounce back in no time.
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