Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: I got too busy to exercise for a few weeks. Have I lost all that I worked for, or can I pick up where I left off?
A: How quickly you lose fitness depends on long you have stopped and how fit you are to start. The more fit you are and the longer you’ve been exercising, let’s say at least several months, the more slowly you lose aerobic condition and strength. You may lose some ground after two or three weeks of not exercising, but you probably are still ahead of where you started. People new to exercise, however, can end up back where they started in endurance and strength after a month or less.
If you are ready to return to your former physical activity and it’s been more than a couple weeks, start back with an easier workout than where you left off. Tune in to how your body feels, and adjust to a pace and intensity that let you exercise using good form. Some experts say a good guideline for aerobic exercise is to work hard enough that you wouldn’t want to sing, but can still talk. Again, depending on your fitness level and the length of time you stopped exercising, expect it to take weeks or even a few months to get back to your previous fitness level.
Next time you find yourself tight on time, studies show that if you exercise for a shorter period or less often, without cutting it out completely, you can hold your ground. If you’re getting bored with what you’re doing, or if a change in season ends the activities you’ve been doing, start something new. Participation in different kinds of physical activity can add more benefits than sticking with one form of exercise alone, and it keeps activity fun.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $100 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, http://www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.