How long does it take to get unfit?
Everyone gets unmotivated at one point in their athletic career or journey. Some might be super motivated; but they don't have sufficient time to get a proper workout in. The super-motivated people with time constraints will try to do some squats and pushups after they wake up or on their lunch break. If you are that person, I know you are not satisfied: you want to train until you feel your body temperature and heart rate increase. Good job!
The question today is how long does it take for someone who works out somewhat regularly to become unfit: is it a week, two weeks, or a month?
Hutchinson reveals that "research has proven that it takes less work to maintain your level of fitness than it did to get there in the first place. That means that when life intervenes like holiday travels, exams, deadlines at work, and so on, you can temporarily scale back your workout regimen without losing your hard-earned fitness. But the clock is ticking. Danish researchers found that after two to three weeks, subjects who reduced physical activity showed worse insulin sensitivity and a decreased ability to burn fat". My advice is that when you are taking a break from working out, ensure that you are keeping to healthy nutrition. Also, try and incorporate some type of physical activity in between your very busy schedule.
"Paul William of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California published surprising results about a phenomenon he called - asymmetric weight gain and loss, based on the experiences of 55,000 runners in his National Runners' Health Study. Put simply, he found that you gain more weight when you stop exercising than you lose when you subsequently resume the identical exercise program. In other words, if you stop exercising, you don't get to resume where you left off. Falling off the wagon for a few weeks may just add a pound or two, but if it happens every year, it can lead to a steady accumulation of weight even though you're working out diligently for the other 50 weeks of the year" (Hutchinson, 27-28). The secret is consistency because every workout counts.
The conversation blog on this topic explained that a runner going through a detraining period will experience a decrease in VO2 max by around 10% for the first four weeks. The rate will continue to decline but at a slower rate over a long period. A strength trainer in a detraining phase will experience a 13% decrease in the number of muscle fibers after just two weeks of no training.
My advice is to do little exercise even on your busy days because EVERY WORKOUT COUNTS.
Hutchinson, A, Ph.D. "Getting Started". Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? edited by Alex Hutchinson, Harper Collins, 2011, pp. 25-27