The weather is hot, the gym is closed, and you’ve been relaxing – enjoying the lazy, hazy days of summer. Taking a day off here and there is no problem, but if you’ve been consistently missing your regular run, bike ride or gym session and notice some aches and pains showing up, you might have the beginnings of deconditioning. Physical therapy can help. Your physical therapist can not only help you recover faster, but they can find activities to maintain your fitness while safely working around any injuries or illnesses if necessary.
Exercise creates many changes in your body – your heart begins to pump blood more efficiently, your muscles use oxygen more efficiently – they contract in a more coordinated manner and your body gets more efficient turning food into fuel, to name just a few. Deconditioning is the reversing of these changes. Exercise is a “use it or lose it” kind of thing, and deconditioning is the process by which we “lose it.”
How Long Does It Take to Decondition?
As with most things related to a system as complex as the human body, it depends. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, two weeks without exercise can lead to significant loss of cardiovascular fitness. Two to eight months of detraining can erase virtually all of your gains. As you detrain, cardiovascular fitness tends to decline first, with muscle strength declining later.
Alexa L’Abbe, Physical Therapist at Prairie Rehabilitation – Fulda says, “If you’ve taken a break from your typical exercise routine and then try to jump right back in where you left off, it will likely result in injury. Don’t let your injury perpetuate a cycle of inactivity and further deconditioning. I recommend seeing a physical or occupational therapist as soon as you notice the start of an issue so your strength can be maintained while addressing the injury.”
Other factors are your age and exercise history. If you’re younger, you’ll probably lose fitness at a slower rate than someone older. If you’ve been consistently exercising for a long time, or at a high intensity, your losses will probably be slower than for someone who just started.
“Often, injury can be the result of muscle imbalance or weakness. Physical or occupational therapists can recognize this before it becomes a bigger issue to help treat any existing injuries as well as educate to prevent future injuries,” says L’Abbe.
Even with an underlying medical issue, it is still important to continue with or start exercising. If you have a medical condition and notice new pain, a physical therapist can provide you with an updated at-home exercise program to help with your pain.
Reversing the Losses
If you’re just undergoing a period of increased time commitments at work or with family, using a shortened exercise routine can help minimize your losses. Even one session a week will help you keep most of what you’ve gained. Other options are to use shorter but more intense interval training sessions, or breaking up your activity into multiple short chunks during the day. If your layoff was longer, it may take just as long to retrain as it did to make the gains initially. If you’re having those aches and pains due to inactivity or need help designing a safe program to either maintain your fitness or gain it back after a layoff, physical therapy is the answer.
About Prairie Rehabilitation
At Prairie Rehabilitation our Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Hand Therapy and Speech Therapy experts are passionate about helping our patients reclaim their way of life and function. It’s about you; you are unique with distinct qualities, abilities, and needs. At Prairie Rehabilitation we embrace the philosophy of “Patient First” care; treating each individual with precise and personalized care. To achieve the best results and to speed your recovery, we are committed to utilizing the most clinically proven and current concepts in rehabilitation.
A full list of our outpatient clinic locations can be found here. For those who cannot make it to out to one of our clinics, we also offer our Prairie at Home program. More information on this programcan be found here. Telehealth appointments (also known as video visits) are another option to receive the therapy you need from the comfort of your own home. More information on telehealth can be found here.
Alexa L’Abbe, DPT earned her doctorate degree in Physical Therapy in 2016 from St. Catherine University in St. Paul MN. She primarily works at Prairie Rehab’s Fulda, MN location and enjoys the opportunity to treat patients in a variety of settings including outpatient, skilled nursing and in home via home health or Prairie at Home.