The principle of ‘use it or lose it’ is pretty self-explanatory and helps describe what happens to strength, aerobic fitness, mobility and power when training stops. When we start training to get fitter, the body must work hard to adapt to new stresses on the body. This includes building new muscle tissue, increasing the heart’s ability to pump blood and even how well muscles can use oxygen as a fuel source. Though these changes definitely don’t happen overnight! They result from continuous training that regularly places stress the body. And for all the time and hard work it takes to create these adaptations, we can lose them nearly three times as fast! This is known as “deconditioning”.
So how quickly does it take to REALLY lose these adaptations? It depends on several variables, including a person’s ‘training age’. For example, fit people with long training histories can hold onto these adaptations for longer, when compared with people of lower fitness levels. The other primary factor is the duration of the break. Typically, there’s a 2 week threshold before you begin to see a noticeable decrease in strength, aerobic capacity and power output.
There are ways to help slow this deconditioning or better yet prevent the deterioration of these adaptations from occurring altogether. Check out the following tips to help maintain fitness and prevent deconditioning over the Christmas break!
Don’t stop – anything is better than nothing!
No one can deny silly season celebrations can sometimes get in the way of your regular exercise regime. So, instead of trying to do it all, try to get in one-to-two sessions a week. Then, anything extra is a bonus!
Keep the Intensity High!
Although you may be strapped for time, there’s no excuse to not give 100%. Focus on getting your heart rate up and keeping rest times to a minimum. For a simple, quick and intense session, choose five of your favourite exercises – think burpees, jump squats, boxing etc.- and do 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off of each exercise for five rounds!
Simple things like taking the stairs, parking further away from your destination, or even incorporating more outdoor time into your day are all great ways to get your steps up and keep your body moving! If you’d like to read more about how to keep moving over the Christmas break, check out Pivotal Motion Physiotherapy’s blog on Sitting Less, Moving More.