We often focus on the benefits of exercise, but have you ever considered the effect a lack of exercise has on your body? Without regular, light activity, the body begins to slip out of balance and out of health. Here are seven ways even a week of not exercising affects your health:
Insulin levels increase. After a week of not exercising, individuals develop a decreased sensitivity towards insulin (aka insulin resistance). Therefore, the body must create more and more insulin to do the same job. When high levels of insulin are carousing around in the body, not being put to any use, they cause inflammation and harm. Over time, these steadily rising levels due to lack of exercise increase your risk for heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Muscle mass decreases. After a week of inactivity, your muscle mass will dwindle. Certain muscle will actually change form, into a type of muscle fiber that fatigues far more quickly. Retaining muscle mass is important, so skipping out on physical activity, even for a week, is not good.
Body fat increases. This should go without saying, but your metabolism suffers when you stop working out. As muscle mass decreases, they lose their capacity to burn fat, which mean your fat stores will begin to increase. By keeping muscles toned through light activity, they retain their fat burning capacity.
Blood pressure rises. On days you don’t exercise, your blood pressure is higher than it is on days you are active. Prolong your period of inactivity, and the blood pressure rise could increase to unhealthy levels. Over time, this puts you at great risk for cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and stroke.
You feel more stressed. When you exercise, you are protecting yourself from the harmful effects of daily stress. By ditching your regimen for a week, your body becomes less efficient in dealing with stress and you’re more prone to feeling overwhelmed and anxious.
Bedroom life suffers. Not only does a lack of exercise make sleeping more difficulty, but it also affects other bedroom-related activities. Libido can be increased with exercise, so it only makes sense that a lack of exercise hurts your libido. And who can blame you? Without physical activity to help you burn through the build-up of stress and excess calories, you’re going to be in no mood to get it on.
Your brain suffers. Exercise encourages the growth of new brain cells. By not exercising, your memory functions less optimally, and you begin to experience poor focus and weak concentration. Brains that have not benefited from the effects of exercise in a week or two actually have less gray matter and decreased neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to change and adapt). So, yes, exercise keeps you smart.
You’re at greater risk for depression. Exercise has well-documented happiness-boosting effects. It boosts endorphin levels, for instance. By not exercising, you are cutting your body off from the influx of those feel-good chemicals. Exercise is often prescribed as a treatment for depression. By remaining inactive for a few days, you are creating the perfect breeding ground for depression to take hold. Even if you don’t become depressed, your mood will be drastically improved if you exercise regularly.
Next time you consider skipping out on your evening walk, consider what will happen to your body. The time for a change is now, not tomorrow. According to Newton’s first law of motion, a body in motion stays in motion, while a body at rest stays at rest. Keep yourself moving, and you’ll be moving well into your older years.