Regular exercise is encouraged for everyone but not everyone can stick to a routine that includes a regimented fitness regime. Even for those of us who factor in exercise into most days, stress, daily occurrences and injury, can put a strain on normal routine.
When the chilly season takes hold it is harder to motivate yourself to stick to your fitness regime, and even harder to say no to the delicious treats that seem to be everywhere around this time.
But what if you knew what happened to you when you stopped exercising? Would you approach the winter season differently?
The obvious symptoms, like decreased fitness levels, are felt most commonly when people start exercising again after a long period of time spent out of the gym, or not being active.
“When detraining starts to occur you see a decrease in cardio and respiratory fitness,” said Professor David Luban from the University of Newcastle.
“With detraining, the fitter you are the slower the effects of stopping exercise and you tend to get back your fitness pretty quickly,” Professor Luban said.
“For people who haven’t been doing very much exercise, if they stop for two weeks then they will go backwards quite quickly.”
“Muscle soreness is going to be an issue as well. If you haven’t done much training and you come back, you will experience some muscle soreness.”
Although in Australia and New Zealand we don’t have the added issue of having to combat winter food cravings, overindulgence in the silly season is still a problem. During this time we are all guilty of helping ourselves to an extra serving (or two) and searching the supermarket aisles for comfort food.
Keeping your fitness regular around this period can help adjust our cravings accordingly.
“When people are exercising regularly, they have more healthy food cravings. When people have an active lifestyle they don’t crave fatty foods as much” says Dr Richard Keegan, an associate professor in sports and exercise psychology at the University of Canberra.
Happiness Levels Decrease
Your fitness levels aren’t the only thing that suffers when you stop exercising. Fitness of any kind has an enormous effect on your mood and serotonin levels.
Changes in energy regulation can occur quite quickly when you halt exercise.
Because the benefits of exercise extend beyond the purely physical, when you slip out of your regular fitness routine you can experience dips in mood, heightened anxiety levels and more noticeable irritability.
“It can reduce most of the negative mental states and some symptoms of depression, anxiety, you have better sleep regulation. Usually you’ll see an improved mood, slightly elevated energy levels and you do get some cognitive changes in self-esteem.
According to Professor Luban, the social and spiritual connectedness you receive from exercise is also really important.
“We know that there are benefits of doing exercise outdoors that are above and beyond doing exercise in a gym. When you’re outdoors your brain relaxes and you’re distracted from your troubles,” he said.
“When we live in a built-up environment you get stimulus overload, but when you go running outdoors your body and brain unwind a bit and connect with nature.
“A lot of physical activity happens in a social context now and it’s not great to miss out on that.”