How Long Does It Take to Get Out of Shape?

Learn how to bounce back if you find you've been taking time off from being fit.


By Tesa Johns


The beautiful weather that is fall has begun to knock on doors, and winter will be here before we know it. It’s a cozy night at home, snuggled in your favorite blanket with that must see movie, when all of a sudden you realize you’ve forgotten to workout. The thought of even getting back into working out seems impossible, but with facts on detraining and a few tips on how to get back into shape you will be ready to hit the gym before the next commercial break!

How long does it take to lose fitness?

Let’s start by viewing the gym hiatus as your body’s recovery from the stress placed on it from previous workouts. Be careful, too much rest can also be a bad thing. “Use it or lose it” isn’t just a saying. The lose it parts depends on how long your rest has been and how fit you were before it.

If you were gym/ fitness regular you may still be in better shape than you feel. The period of detraining comes with a decrease in muscle capillary density, which in athletes can take place in 2-3 weeks. Muscle capillary density is the number of capillaries per unit cross-sectional area of muscle. Your Arterial-venous oxygen difference (how much oxygen is removed from the blood) would be unchanged after a short-term break but will decline if inactivity continues. Strength is retained for up to 4 weeks of inactivity, however highly trained athletes power may decline. With that being said sport specific muscle fibers change in as little as two weeks. These are the muscles that are normally only activated to their full potential in exercise.

Sadly, cardio is a different story. Four weeks of inactivity will result in a 20 percent decrease in your VO2max (maximum capacity to take in, transport, and use oxygen during exercise).

New to the gym

If exercise just isn’t a habit yet, try to not take to long of a break. A key to working out and getting in shape is consistency. If your body has not endured exercise long it will lose its gains quicker. The first few strength gains will fade away, but it will not take long to gain them back. Any cardio gains made will be lost after four weeks of inactivity.

Does my age play a factor?

Age does play a role in your bounce back time. The older you are the quicker your body loses its gains and it takes longer to achieve them again. Also the reason why you took your break may be a factor. Illness or trauma may decrease your bounce back time as well.

Ways to get back at it

1. Light Cardio

Training a little will do a better job of keeping your fitness level then totally stopping. Maybe fit in a brisk walk when the weather allows! Light cardio with your heart rate in the 120-ish range for your allotted time will help you get back into that old routine or start a fresh one.

2. Resistance Training

Body weight exercises can help keep stress on your body without overstressing. Light resistance exercise will allow your body to move and decrease the loss of mobility in your muscles.

3. Eat Right and Love Who You Are

Exercise can help you maintain your weight and food habits by keeping you busy enough to not snack and makes you think twice before loading up on junk food. Eating well will help you avoid weight gain while nutrient dense foods help speed up recovery and fitness levels.

It is important to not judge yourself during your break period. Make sure to not take a harsh look on your body, love it for who you are, because who you are is perfect!

The gym will be waiting for you when you’re done with your hiatus!

Tesa is new to blogging, but hopes to make a big impact with her vast knowledge of athletics and experience. Tesa recently earned her bachelor's degree at the Pennsylvania State University. While majoring in Athletic Training and minoring in psychology, she worked with various division one collegiate sports teams. Tesa is continuing her education by pursuing her Master's of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in sports pedagogy at The Louisiana State University. Tesa is a board certified Athletic Trainer and a Performance Enhancement Specialist. Outside of the training room, Tesa enjoys going on runs and working out for leisure.

Main Photo Credit: Maridav/; Second Photo Credit: wavebreakmedia/; Third Photo Credit: Alexander Lukatskiy/; Fourth Photo Credit: Loupe Project/; Fifth Photo Credit: BLACKDAY/; Sixth Photo Credit: Africa Studio/

Nov 5, 2015

two hip replacement surgeries within 10 months will do it for sure!