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Paige Waehner

Taking A Break From Exercise - How Long Can You Go?

By July 24, 2013

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Here's the thing about exercise: You can never stop doing it. It's kind of like, say, coloring your gray hair. Once you start doing it and you look and feel a certain way, there's no stopping without losing all that great health and fitness...or great looking hair, depending on which one we're talking about.

Still, that doesn't mean you can't take a break from your exercise routine from time to time. In fact, it's often a good idea to have planned breaks so that your body can rest before it gets tired or injured.

That's a lovely idea, of course, but as one of my clients pointed out last week, most of us don't plan an exercise break. It's more like one takes an exercise break and only realizes how long of a break it actually is when one's clothes no longer fit.

Then the question becomes - How long can you take a break from exercise without losing everything you've gained? I happen to have a handy dandy FAQ about taking a break from exercise that explains the basics, namely that you could probably get away with a week or two without exercise but, after that? You're going to start losing endurance, strength and muscle mass.

However, if you find yourself in one of those 'whoops...an entire month has passed and I haven't returned any of my trainer's calls' moments, don't panic. There are two very important things you can do, even if you've strayed from your regular exercise routine:

  1. Stay active - Even if you're not hitting the gym or doing your usual workouts, you can still maintain some level of activity by just moving around. Take walks, ride a bike, go swimming, do some yoga...keep your body moving in some form or fashion, even if it's just a few minutes here or there.
  2. Keep some healthy behaviors - When we do away with one healthy behavior - say, quitting exercise - we tend to throw all those other ones out the window as well, thinking - What's the point if I've already ruined things? The point is, you haven't ruined things just by stopping exercise and you'll feel much better about yourself if you maintain some aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Go easy on the treats and pile up on the fruits and vegetables. Drink more water or spend some time making a new healthy recipe. Keeping one foot in the door will remind you that you're still in the game, even if you're not all the way in.

What about you? Are you on an extended exercise break? Do you ever schedule breaks in your routine? Leave a comment and tell us about taking a break from exercise.

July 24, 2013 at 9:57 am
(1) Simey says:

It is hard to “begin” exercising after either never doing it formally or after taking a substantial amount of time off. Just about 13 years ago, I deceided to work out every day for one year…I’m still doing it every day.

Here’s my formula for keeping it up:

1. Don’t set a time goal you can’t commit to. Mine is 20 minutes minimum daily of what I consider intense workouts (right now I’m doing “Insanity”, which is a BIG step up from 20 mins). So set yourself something you can handle. Start with 10 mins and work up from there…just always do the 10 minimum!

2. Schedule it. I do 5:30AM on work days. I’m in a routine, a habit, so I just don’t miss it.

3. If you can’t do your routine, do SOMETHING. I like to play golf, so I walk and carry my bag when I do. Carrying 50lbs and walking 5 miles up and down hills surely qualifies in my book.

4. Add other healthy choices as you go. I don’t eat wheat (except in beer :) . I’ve started to replace certain things I liked with better choices, that I now actually enjoy more. e.g no potato chips, instead I eat well flavored baked gluten free) snacks like Lentil chips, black bean chips, hummus chips. You might be surprised at how good those things have become. They no longer taste like cardboard.

Anyway, my point is that it can be done by just about anyone, and although I do have great willpower and commitment, you can find a way to get it into your life.

Hope this helps someone.


July 24, 2013 at 10:49 am
(2) lahope says:

I don’t schedule breaks. I exercise on average two hours every day (combinations of strenuous yoga, spinning, gym with my trainer). I take breaks if necessary because of injury, illness or obligations. However, these are not frequent. In general I build my schedule around my exercise.

July 24, 2013 at 12:51 pm
(3) Pauline says:

I take a week off once a year when I get a vacation. Even when I am injured I try to do something. After many years I have learned that it is harder to motivate yourself once you stop. The solution for me is, don’t quit.

July 29, 2013 at 9:14 pm
(4) Alweed says:

In the first place,..my exercise is just about halted. I was wallking at evening at Least 20 minutes five nights and then that got turned into two or three say mainly early eves after the sweat of having to either work or feel my way through piles of endless laundry to get sort of ORDER in the race of pain. As I was mainly absorbed by trying to get a handle on spinal problems and lack of pain relief,..I tried to find an angle at natural and healthy alternative healing hurt relief. Then it started being yoga at or before sunrise(and a mix of meditation)my only time to be at one self time.And then the hurling of life and the struggle of medication replacing meditation(ever think about the similarities?) Not only because one is easier than the other,believe that or not! And then the harmony of peace time with one’s inner self leaving the stretch of good knowledge to have a back seat to chronic pain relief. I know stretches and simple postures are a lot better at healing and keeping underlying circumstances down to a low rolling simmer(rather than a steady open electric storm raging constantly).I just wish that I would go back to an all out heart after conditioning as I had once before alive and demanding instead of needless to just do anything for relief.

July 30, 2013 at 12:36 am
(5) ririka says:

I have never planed for workout plan …….its usually wen I m sick or sme guest comes……bt I opt for some other activities like cleaning home…n cooking for guest n playing wid kids or walking up n down stairs….n its works gud wid me….

July 30, 2013 at 7:39 am
(6) K.Gopal Rao says:

The importance of not taking too long a break depends on age and condition, I guess. If u’ve hit yr goals, and are working out in maintenance mode, breaks can easily get extended. Then, if yr a geriatric like me and have experience of how even two weeks can lead to aches and pains and and a lowering of the bar on resumption, u’ll take pains to avoid anything longer than a week!

My advice, never reach maintenance mode, and never plan a break since life throws enough unplanned breaks at u anyway.

July 30, 2013 at 8:08 am
(7) Michael Moldenhauer says:

One day. Usually Sunday.

August 3, 2013 at 6:24 am
(8) Conceição says:

I usually have «forced» breaks. During that time I try to use my muscles whenever I remember, like sitting upright with contracted abdominals, getting up from chairs in a controled movement, doing the kind of exercise you are advised to do on planes. And stretching, at least at the end of the day. I very seldom go without exercise for more than 7 or 10 days, even when travelling.

August 13, 2013 at 8:08 am
(9) David says:

I think before people buying an exercise equipment, they’d better read some reviews of the equipment. Like exercise bike, you can find some websites like , for it provides you some information that you may not note before. Do this and you will find a better one.

November 20, 2013 at 11:46 am
(10) Andrea says:

Thank you, this article was very helpful. I’m very athletic and very active. I run about 2.5 miles 2-3 times per week and I also lift on the opposite days for my legs and arms. But all of a sudden, I’m fatigued. I’m so tired, I have no ambition to exercise. Thankfully, someone says with reasonably, that it’s ok to take a break once in a while!

January 9, 2014 at 9:28 am
(11) umar says:

the thing is im 14 and do a lot of exercise (Bodyweight) and the thing is i was told to take a 1 week solid break from exercising so my muscle can strengthen itself without interruption because when i was working out i realized there wasnt much of a difference of the reps of pullups i do. I was stuck at around 8-10 in a row. but is it good that im doing a 1 week break?

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