How to get back into exercise after a break

Once you stop exercising, getting back into a routine is certainly not easy. Especially if you haven’t exercised in a long time which may happen after a serious injury, pregnancy or illness.

Regardless of why you stopped exercising, if you have a desire to be fit and healthy again, everything is possible. While it may not be easy to start with, if you have a will there is a way…

To help you get started and get back into exercise after a break, check our top tips below but before you do, read what happens to your body when you stop exercising (this will hopefully motivate you!).

What happens when you stop exercising?

First of all, before you get back into exercise you should understand what happens when you stop exercising. There are studies which have shown that lack of exercise affects everything from your lungs and heart to your muscle mass.

Your muscles shrink

This is a quite obvious effect of skipping the gym or stopping to exercise completely. Your muscles shrink. Although this may not necessarily impact your strength. It will take about two weeks before this starts to happen.

Your VO2 max decreases

The maximum amount of oxygen you can get into your system (VO2 Max) drops.

Edward Coyle, a physiologist at the University of Texas, says:  “It turns out the decline follows a half-life of about 12 days. You decline half of the level from where you start during the first 12 days.”

According to Coyle, for every week you remain idle, it takes about three weeks to regain the lost adaptations. If you’re starting at an incredibly high level of fitness, this isn’t a huge deal, but if you’re just beginning to exercise, it may be harder (or more discouraging) to come back from a period of exercise abstinence.

Your VO2 max (maximal oxygen intake) affects endurance so you will find yourself more out of breath when climbing stairs, for example.

Impact on your blood pressure and blood sugar

When you stop exercising, this has an impact on both, your blood pressure and sugar levels in your blood.

Your blood pressure will increase as exercise helps to lower blood pressure.

Exercise also lowers blood glucose and when you stop exercising your post-meal blood sugar levels will remain elevated instead of dropping (your muscles and other tissues suck up the sugar they need for energy).

Getting back into exercise tips

Now that you know what happens to your body when you stop exercising, you will understand why getting back into exercise quickly is not a good idea. Your body won’t be ready for it so you will struggle and may even risk injuries. You need to take it slowly.

If you struggle for motivation

Many people struggle to start exercising again after a bit of break. But if you know how important it is to exercise and you just need a bit of a push, there is something you can do that is very easy. You just have to make that first step, just to get a feeling of what’s like to exercise again. After that, you can go back to being inactive if you like but you probably won’t. 

Getting started is the first obstacle to overcome. So do make it easy. It really doesn’t matter what you do. Just start moving. This is the first step. Do some easy and simple exercises. Dance. Walk up and down the stairs. Go for a fast walk. Once you start moving you may be in a mood to do more. And that’s how you get started.

Just to give you more ideas of what you can do in the beginning – try some squats, lunges, wall push-ups and jumping jacks. See how many you can do, but do at least 5 if you can. Once you start doing some basic exercises every day, you may want to try using one of the fitness apps such as the 7 Minute Workout App. Before you know it, you will be back to exercising again.

When you first start moving again, you will feel good afterwards and as a result, you will have the motivation to do more (at least, that’s how it normally works).

But you don’t want to overdo it and do too much too soon. Here is how to get back into exercise slowly and safely:

1. Don’t forget to warm-up

A very important step which some people like to neglect. A warm-up. It gently prepares your body for exercises and slowly increases your heart rate. It helps to prepare your muscles for the movements they will be required to carry out during the activity. This is a very important step which helps to prevent injuries.

2. Start with short sessions and easy exercises

Wake up those muscles by doing something that is easy enough but it can be made harder if you want. If you are in the gym, do some weights which are not too heavy and do more sets if you feel like it.

If you are back into cycling, start on flat roads and change gears to make it harder, if you feel like it. You don’t need to take the hills just yet. Start easy and make it harder when you feel ready. Don’t make your sessions too long so that you allow your body to get used to being active again. When things are easier you are also less likely to give up.

3. Start with the frequency you feel comfortable with

When you are getting back into exercise this doesn’t mean you have to exercise every single day. Just do whatever works for you. Maybe you do it once or twice a week to start with (just schedule it in so you commit to it).

Once you get more comfortable, increase your frequency to three times a week and then maybe four times a week. Starting slow will make it easier and more achievable.

4. Give yourself a break

Once you start working those muscles again you will no doubt feel it. You may wake up feeling quite sore one day and when you do, just take a break. Your muscles need time to recover so do listen to your body, don’t ignore it. Give it a rest, as long as it needs. But that doesn’t mean you have to be completely inactive. On your rest days, you can do other things like taking a walk or do some yoga.

If you follow these tips you will no doubt be exercising again regularly in no time. And try not to have a long break again soon as getting back into exercise is not that easy, right?