We’ve all heard the drill – 150 minutes of weekly exercise is recommended – you know it’s good for you providing numerous health benefits. But what would happen if you stopped or didn’t exercise? How bad could things get?
When you stop working out, a whole host of health issues can begin to happen. You certainly won’t wake up completely out of shape, but over time, your body will respond accordingly and not in a good way.
Here’s a look at seven bodily changes to possibly expect when exercise stops:
- Your heart will become weak
Aerobic or cardiovascular endurance is one of the most important exercises we should do regularly. Like any muscle in the body, our heart requires a good workout of us huffing and puffing to elevate it on most days of the week. Raising our heart rate helps protect it from atherosclerosis, heart attack, hypertension, or stroke.
Daily, be deliberate about including simple exercises into your schedule, such as walking, bicycling, or jogging, revving up your heart rate helping reduce cholesterol levels and keeping the heart muscles strong. Any aerobic activity enhances the capacity of the heart including the lungs and blood to deliver oxygen to and remove wastes from the body’s cells.
2. You’ll lose flexibility
Sure, you may think “why is flexibility so important – I never could do the splits or a backbend.” That may be true for many people, but flexibility is more than being able to perform those movements.
One aspect of exercise is stretching. When we repeatedly stretch our muscles, it helps to build them up by toning and shaping muscles preventing them from getting tight and stiff. If you want to be able to perform everyday activities as you grow older, you need to be flexible. Getting out of bed, lifting children, or sweeping the floor requires flexibility. Unfortunately, with age, flexibility often deteriorates due to a sedentary lifestyle. Staying active with daily, frequent stretching helps prevent the loss of mobility and range of motion and reduces the likelihood of chronic back pain.
3. You’ll gain weight
Failing to exercise most likely will result in weight gain. Conversely, choosing a regular exercise regimen helps your body burn off excess calories, speeds up metabolism, and improves blood circulation aiding in digestion.
If you choose not to exercise, you are also choosing the very real possibility of developing serious health conditions related to excess weight gain. These conditions may include type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, gout, gallbladder issues, hypertension, joint pain, depression, and some forms of cancer.
4. Your bones will become weaker
Regular exercise is required if we want our bones to be as strong as possible. Osteoporosis or osteoarthritis can develop over the years if you forgo exercising. Exercise is a critical component for slowing down the loss of bone density that occurs past the age of 30. If our bones are rarely stressed by movements such as brisk walking, jumping rope, jogging, or dancing, they will become weak, brittle, and more susceptible to fractures over time.
Daily weight-bearing exercise and adequate calcium and vitamin D are good ways of protecting your bones.
5. Your muscles will atrophy and you are at risk of sarcopenia
Most people may never have heard of sarcopenia, yet all of us are at risk of developing it as we age. Sarcopenia is age-related muscle loss that can begin in the 40s. As the saying goes, “either use it or lose it” is very true of retaining or building our muscle mass.
If we lead a sedentary lifestyle, our muscles respond by becoming weak and will atrophy or become smaller. The muscle mass we may have enjoyed in our youth will dwindle and is replaced by fat tissue. The less muscle mass, the fewer calories we burn and the frailer we become. Suddenly, being able to carry a heavy bag of groceries is a struggle, or we tire very easily from having weak muscles. This will affect your lifestyle and lead to losing independence with age.
Regular weight resistance or weight training exercise is required to maintain and build muscle mass in order to avoid the effects of sarcopenia.
6. You’ll experience sexual issues
One of the benefits of consistent exercise is building up stamina and endurance. Another added benefit is the release of endorphins, those feel-good hormones that put us in a better mood, including enhancing our libido.
By having good endurance and a healthy libido, our sex life will thrive. We’ll come to bed more likely to have a strong interest in having a sexual encounter. Regular exercise also gives us a better body improving body self-confidence when our clothes are off. For men, it has been shown that exercise helps to improve their sexual performance by reducing the chance of erectile dysfunction.
7. You’ll have increased feelings of stress and depression
Do any of us like feeling stressed out or suffering from depression? Of course, we don’t. Exercise is one of the best ways to avoid stressful and depressed feelings. Working up a sweat will release endorphins, the body’s feel-good hormones that reduce the level of cortisol, a stress hormone.
Many people who regularly work out state that afterward, they have a feeling equivalent to a “runner’s high.” This means they feel peaceful, calm, and clear-headed, and are in a better frame of mind. This is primarily due to the abundance of circulating endorphins released after exercising. Exercise will also help keep energy levels high, putting you in a good mood and ready to tackle the day.
Not to say you will never feel stress or mild depression at times, but exercise is a potent antidote for relieving these feelings and learning to deal with them more appropriately.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.