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What Happens When You Stop Exercising

Okay, let’s be real. Before summertime gets here, we tell ourselves, our friends and even our cats, “I’m going to have my hottest summer body yet this year!” (Even though we know we’re hot regardless.)

Summer comes and goes—we party, have fun and we even keep up the hot summer body-ness . . . but then the seasons begin to change. We’re sad to see our time at the beach end; however, the thought of crisp autumn air, bonfires, football, different colored leaves and new layered clothing/outfits make us PUMPED.


But in the midst of all the excitement for fall, we may or may not forget all the exercise we endured to get our summer bod and the importance of keeping up with our trips to the gym consistently.



It’s no secret that exercise is essential to living a healthy life. It’s a necessity that most of us put aside in place for our comfy beds in the morning (GUILTY). Personally, I procrastinate going to the gym the same way I procrastinate doing my homework . . . I hold off on it only because I know I eventually have to get to it, and because I have to, I no longer want to. Does anyone else feel this way?

But I’m here to tell you that you should motivate yourself to make time at some point during the day to drive to the gym or head for the trails at your local park.

This is what happens to your body when you stop exercising.

72 hours . . . Doesn’t sound like much. But three days is all it takes for your body to change, whether you feel it or not.

Within three days, your muscle mass has already begun to decrease as their fat-burning capabilities decrease. In turn, you lose your strength. This isn’t something you can see happening, but when you forfeit the gym for that previously mentioned comfy bed (still guilty), your slow and fast-twitch endurance muscle fibers become more easily fatigued.

In other words, your muscles are throwing in the towel quicker than usual compared to when you were actively going to the gym.

But as discouraging as that sounds, don’t panic. This doesn’t mean you’ll instantly lose definition in your legs. You use your legs in some way or fashion every day. 

So, that’s kind of like having “leg day” every day, right?

. . . not exactly. Moving along.

Fast forward a few more days . . . 

You’re about to have to work harder than you initially had to in order to get back what you lost.


Fitness levels and muscle strength take double the amount of time in order to return to what they once were. However, don’t beat yourself up too much. A break isn’t at all the worst thing on the planet so long as you aren’t indulgent. Which brings us to everyone’s favorite topic:


Although I love food as much as that kid, my next point isn’t so joyous.

You’re more likely to head to the drive-thru when you’ve skipped the gym. It’s a craving—you can’t always help it! (Treat yo’self, am I right?) 

No, actually, you can help it! When you aren’t slaying at the gym, you’re likely to seek a more convenient and less healthy food option. If you stick to a solid, healthy diet as you do when you’re consistently in the gym, that same nutrition will actually help you maintain the muscle it took so long for you to build. 

Try not to let this stress you out. Even if it does, exercise can fix that. *wink, wink*

Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make you happy! Think of it as rainbows and glitter for your brain.

Whether it’s been three days or 14, the lack of a natural release of endorphins you’re used to from your normal exercise could lead to some stress and moodiness. Plus, think of all the tension that may bring to your body! Muscle tension is a major cause of stress and anxiety, and when there’s stress and anxiety, there’s a chance you may face a lack of sleep. Don’t you love your sleep? Hello?! The comfy bed I’ve already mentioned twice here!

You sleep, Boo. You sleep.

Keep in mind, though, that all is not lost after some time away from the gym. It might take a little while to get back to where you were, but you CAN and WILL regain your strength and muscles! Remember to stay motivated, focused and to think back on why you started your exercise journey to begin with. And if the motivation still isn’t quite there, find an exercise partner. Make sure they keep you in line and that you’re able to do the same for them. Go to a fitness class or learn new workout routines together (or apart)! Exercising can be as fun as you want it to be.

Everyone comes back from vacation eventually. 


Disclaimer: Exercise is not everyone’s cup of tea. Exercise, your body— none of these things or things of the like could ever define you. Big or small, tall or short, male or female— you are perfect just the way you are. Stay true to you and only you, and slay. xoxo

Greetings, earthlings. My name is Natalie and I am a lover of all things non-routine. A senior Radio/TV Broadcasting major at SFA, I enjoy running races, Netflix & Hulu binging, and traveling on short weekend getaways that I convince myself I can afford. I serve as Her Campus SFA's Campus Correspondent and Editor in Chief.
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