What Really Happens When You Stop Exercising

Are you considering quitting exercise? This is how doing so could impact your brain and your body.

You are at higher risk for depression

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Quitting exercise has numerous negative effects on your health—and mood changes may be the first to rear their ugly head, according to Jim White, an ACSM exercise physiologist. “The brain will begin to change, and the person may have brain fog or not feel as cheerful,” he says. “This is because the brain does not receive as much blood going to the hippocampus as it would if the person was exercising.” One study from the University of Adelaide found that stopping exercise can increase depressive symptoms after just three days. 

Your blood pressure rises

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After two weeks of not exercising, your blood vessels begin to stiffen and your pressure can begin to rise, South African researchers found. In another study, Japanese researchers discovered that after three sedentary months, endurance athletes experienced increased arterial stiffness, which has been shown to contribute to a rise in blood pressure; after 12 months of detraining, that stiffness became even more significant. 

You’ll lose control over blood sugar

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If you can keep your blood sugar levels steady, you’ll lower your risk of weight gain, fatigue, and chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology revealed that participants who followed an eight-month-long regimen of strength and aerobic training improved their blood glucose levels—but about half of them lost those benefits within 14 days of quitting exercise. Plus, here are 7 scary cancers you could prevent just by exercising.

Your muscles shrink

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The loss of muscle mass and bone health after stopping exercise is not easily regained and can lead to increased risk of serious injury,” says Miho J. Tanaka, MD. Your risk of joint or back pain rises, as well, adds Dr. Tanaka. Where you lose muscle depends on the type of exercise you stop doing, according to New York-based certified strength and conditioning specialist Mike Clancy. If you’re a runner, for example, your leg muscles can lose strength and size, he says. As for weightlifters, any muscles regularly worked will deflate, Clancy says. 

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