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How Long Does It Take to Lose Muscle?

If you get into a fitness program, you may be concerned about losing your progress if you take a break. Taking a few days off from exercise, on the other hand, is beneficial to your health and can help you achieve your fitness goals in the long run.

On the other hand, taking too lengthy a break will cause you to lose muscle and cardio fitness that you've achieved. The rate at which this loss occurs is determined by a number of factors, including your pre-break fitness level.

In most circumstances, taking three to four weeks off won't cause you to lose much strength, but it may cause you to lose cardio endurance within a few days.

Athletes with training

An "athlete" is someone who has exercised five to six times a week for more than a year. People who exercise only a few times each week but have done so for years are sometimes labeled athletes.

Muscular Strength

According to a study, athletes can begin to lose muscle strength in as little as three weeks if they do not exercise. Athletes often lose less overall muscular strength than nonathletes during a sabbatical.

In general, you can go up to three or four weeks without using Trusted Source without seeing a significant decline in strength performance.

Cardiovascular Fitness

A new study looked at 21 runners who took part in the 2016 Boston Marathon and then reduced their physical activity. They went from running approximately 32 miles per week to 3 or 4 miles per week. The runners' cardiac fitness had fallen dramatically after four weeks of this reduced routine.

The runners' declines would have been greater if they had quit exercising entirely, according to the study. They were able to retain some level of aerobic fitness by running three or four miles per week.

If you're an athlete who needs to reduce your exercise due to time constraints or an accident, maintaining a minimum level of activity could safeguard you from losing all of your cardiac fitness.


If you don't work out five times a week or haven't been exercising regularly for a long time, you're probably a nonathlete.

According to a 2012 study, you may take around three weeks off like an athlete without noticing a substantial reduction in muscle strength. However, if at all possible, you should not take more than that amount of time off. Nonathletes are more likely to regress than athletes during periods of inactivity.

The good news is... According to a 2010 study, both athletes and nonathletes can attain their peak fitness levels faster after a hiatus than when they first started training.

Cardio vs. muscle

Our bodies are excellent at retaining general strength. If you skip a few weeks of exercise, your muscle strength will not suffer significantly.

We know that skeletal muscular strength remains roughly constant after a month of not exercising. However, as previously stated, athletes can begin to lose muscle after three weeks of inactivity.

Cardiovascular fitness, or aerobic fitness, deteriorates faster than muscle strength, and this can occur in as little as a few days. According to a 2012 study of athletes, after a 3 to 4 week layoff from cardio, endurance drops by 4 to 25%. After a four-week layoff, beginners may discover that their aerobic fitness has returned to zero.

Age and gender

Your age and gender can also influence how rapidly you lose fitness.

Maintaining muscle mass and strength becomes increasingly difficult as we age. Older persons have a greater decline in fitness during a rest.

One study from 2000 divided participants into two groups based on age (20- to 30-year-olds and 65- to 75-year-olds) and subjected them all to the identical exercise program and time of inactivity. During the six-month interval, the older participants lost nearly twice as much strength as the younger ones.

The study discovered no statistically significant variations in strength decrease between men and women in the same age groups. The older women, on the other hand, were the only ones who returned to their baseline fitness level after the six-month layoff, implying that they had lost all of their development.

The reduction of strength in the older female participants is most likely due to menopause. According to a 2009 study, it causes a drop in estrogen, which reduces muscular mass and strength.

Getting back into shape

According to a 2010 study, athletes can return to their previous fitness levels faster than nonathletes after taking a hiatus from activity.

Muscle memory allows athletes to regain their previous muscle strength more quickly. According to a recent study, this occurs at the genetic level.

The researchers discovered that genes in the afflicted muscles "remember" muscular growth. Even after a long layoff, when you start training those muscles again, the genes respond faster than genes in previously underused muscles.

If you're not an athlete, you'll retain muscle memory from earlier action as well, but your genes won't be as quick to recall it if it wasn't highly consistent. You'll still be able to return to your previous fitness level faster than it took the first time, but it will take longer than it does for an athlete.

The better shape you were in when training, the faster you'll be able to return to it.

In conclusion

Several factors influence how long it takes to lose and regain muscle after a layoff. It also depends on the type of activity you perform.

You can take a break from strength training for a longer period of time without experiencing major consequences. If you participate in endurance sports such as running or swimming, you will notice a faster reduction in your aerobic fitness.

The basic line is that taking a few days off, or even a few weeks off, will not severely impede your growth. Remember that you'll be able to return to your peak fitness levels faster after a break than you did when you initially started exercising.

If you need to reduce your exercise but don't have to entirely quit, even a small bit of strength or aerobic activity can keep you from losing all of your progress.

If you're having trouble sticking to a fitness plan, speaking with a personal trainer can help. They can create a strategy for you that takes into account your lifestyle, fitness level, goals, and any injuries.




My name is Steven Goldstein

With over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry, I have worked with clients of all ages and fitness levels. From professional athletes to individuals aiming to lose weight, I have helped countless people achieve their goals and improve their overall health through customized training and nutrition plans.

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Consistency leaves clues

Hundreds of clients of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities have put their health in our hands over the years and achieved truly remarkable results. 

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