You have been consistent with your exercise routine for months, and then the temperatures plummet, there are wind chills making the temperatures feel like it’s well below zero, and there’s a combination of rain, sleet, and snow expected for two to three months. And to make matters worse, you’ve got a cold. You don’t want to get up to exercise. It’s too cold outside. So, you don’t exercise for a day, then two days, then a week. Before long, you’ve fallen completely off the fitness wagon.
Even if it has been a week or more since you last exercised, not all hope is lost. You have a choice to make:
Simply stop exercising and lose all benefits that you had gained from your previous work.
Accept the fact that you’re not perfect and decide to get back on track.
Let’s look at each of these choices a little closer.
This may be the easier choice to make, but you know it is not the best choice. In fact, if you’ve been exercising for very long, many of the benefits you had gained from being active will begin to disappear within the first two weeks. Below are things you can expect to happen if you chose to stop exercising.
The brain may be the first thing affected when you stop exercising. A recent study found that short breaks can cause changes to the brain in as little as ten days. The hippocampus, where memory and emotion are associated, receives less blood flow.
It will be easier to become winded. Within 14 days, you may find you become winded when climbing stairs whereas in the past you could climb easily. The maximum amount of oxygen (VO2 max) your body can use decreases by 10% after as little as two weeks. If you stop exercising for four weeks, the VO2 max could drop by 15% or 20% if you stop for three months.
Blood pressure and blood glucose levels may also rise sharply within the same two week period. You may see your blood pressure return to what it was before you began exercising.
After not exercising for four weeks, you may notice you’re not as strong as you were. You may notice a change after two weeks, but after four weeks, the change will be more noticeable.
Six to eight weeks after you stop exercising, your body will begin gaining fat. After five weeks, competitive swimmers who took a break noticed a 12% increase in body fat as well as seeing an increase in their waist and body weight.
As you can see, if you’ve made improvements to your health by exercising, those improvements will begin to disappear.
If you’ve fallen off the wagon as far as fitness is concerned, don’t wait until tomorrow to get moving. Start today and start with a small activity to move you forward. If it’s been weeks since you’ve exercised, you’re not going to be at the same level as when you stopped. Trying to pick up right where you left off could cause injury. Start slow and build up to where you were.
The Law of Inertia states that a body at rest tends to stay at rest and a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Get moving and it will be easier to stay moving. Do something, it doesn’t matter what, as long as you are moving.
Start with short workouts – even five or ten minutes at a time – are better than nothing when it’s been a while since you’ve exercised. Not only will you be moving toward your goals again, but exercising will also actually help your body warm up, so you don’t feel the cold as easily.
Tell a friend that you trust that you need their help to get back on the exercise track. Be specific about how what you’d like to accomplish. “I will exercise Monday, Wednesday, and Friday by walking for 30 minutes.” It’s a good chance they may feel the need to exercise as well. Confiding in a friend can help you be honest with yourself and will make you feel better.
Enlist a friend. Like almost everything in life, exercising is more fun with someone you enjoy being with. They can encourage you and can encourage them. It’s a win-win arrangement.
Take a hike – or a walk around the block – even if it is colder outside. You don’t have to run or drive to a gym if it seems too difficult. Simply getting outdoors and walking can be some of the best exercise for colder months.
Instead of taking the elevator at work, take the stairs. If you can’t walk up multiple flights of stairs your first day, take one flight and then ride the elevator the remainder of the way up.
Act like a child and play! Children don’t think of playing as exercise, they simply see it as having fun. You can do the same thing. Try to find fun things you can do that will also get you moving. There are many activities and sports you can try that will bring fun back to getting fit.
Find some energetic music that makes you want to move. So much upbeat music available will encourage you to exercise.
Block out your exercise time on your calendar and guard that time. Turn your phone off so you won’t be interrupted by alerts.
Dress warmly and go outside to exercise. You don’t have to freeze while exercising in colder weather. Today’s exercise wear is so versatile today and there is so much to choose from. Get the gear that you will need for whatever weather your area experiences during the winter. Be sure to get waterproof outer clothing so you won’t get soaked to the bones if it starts raining.
It is not uncommon for physically active people to slow down or stop exercising during the colder months. The lower temperatures and shorter days often make your metabolism slow down which makes being active more difficult. You don’t have to lose your motivation and give up exercising during these months.
You can remain active during the winter months even if you want to crawl under the covers to get warm. Set some S.M.A.R.T. goals, enlist the help of a friend, try new activities, and get moving. You know you will feel better which will motivate you to keep going.