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Health and Fitness: Use it or lose it

Credit: MIKE POWELL (THINKSTOCK)

Taking a break from working out is not a bad thing, but making sure you stay on track and active as often as you can is key to a healthy lifestyle.


Karen Nixon-Carroll | Interrobang | Lifestyles | April 9th, 2018




Starting something new is never easy, but starting over can be worse. When you take time off or not consistently training, your muscles atrophy (muscle cells shrink) and your motor neurons begin to “forget” the action they need to do. In other words, “muscle memory” can be lost or become hazy as well.

The risk of prolonged periods without training are greater, the longer the time off. When you take a week off, it’s generally no problem and can even have benefit to those who have very heavy or elitist training loads. The difference is that people at this fitness level don’t really ever take a week off. They may just take a week off of weight training, but they do other things like hiking, biking, rowing, dancing, running etc. and they maintain their flexibility with regular stretching and gentle yoga. A week off for some may involve lots of sitting or lying and this can be very risky.

Your body was made to move. If it wasn’t, we’d all be built like the Tin Man and never need oil for our joints. Your joint “oil” is synovial fluid and you need to move your body, eat properly and stay hydrated in order to maintain or improve synovial fluid. When you don’t do these things, we run the risk of sprains, strains, tears, breaks and bruising that last for weeks. You are at greater risk for falling, tripping, letting go, fatiguing and more. Your muscles help you move your joints and they need to be strong enough or stronger than the actions that you regularly do. Strong enough is okay, but stronger is better; that is what will make your physical life seem easy.

What if you don’t want big muscles? Fitness professionals get asked or told this all the time by both men and women. Many people don’t want big muscles because it is simply not the look they are going for. Consider the tradeoff though: if you don’t strength train on a regular basis in some way, you out yourself at the risks already listed as well as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, more frequent injury, longer healing time for injuries, low energy and poor brain function among other things and just daily actions such as going up the stairs or shopping feels like a workout.

Your body structure is already pre-determined. You are either short with broad shoulders, tall and lanky, medium and stalky, petite from head to toe, tall and built like a tree etc. Don’t label your body shape by how much body fat/muscles you have or don’t have. Have a trainer assess your body type and find the exercises appropriate for you achieve your strength goals and to give your body the shape you want. Personally, I would work with you to embrace the body you were given and to focus on feeling good and have the ability to get through the things that challenge you on a daily basis.

If you cannot get to the gym, check out your surroundings and embrace them. This also includes if you’re on vacation. You can also seek the advice of a trainer and set up a few sessions to learn a couple “at-home” or “vacation” workouts.

If your vacation is the workout (hiking, kayaking, biking, etc.) just make sure you are warming up properly, stretching at the end of the day and balancing out those activities with a little resistance training where needed. Enjoy your time off, but keep your goals in check by changing things up and keep your body moving, active and strong.


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