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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How long without exercise will cause a reduction in my fitness level?

    I have worked very hard to achieve the fitness level that I am at currently, and I'm worried this recent chest infection will prevent me from keeping fit, and therefore detrimentally affect my fitness levels.

    How long without exercise does it take to see any real detriments in fitness level? And what should I do to stay active while I'm sick?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Angela Groves

    HealthShare Member

    I was worried about the same thing a few weeks ago as I had been preparing for a 10km fun run for months then, 2 weeks before it, I got a bad headcold followed straight on by a vomiting bug the kids brought home from daycare.
    I have always found that forcing myself to rest and focus on putting good nutrients into my body while I am sick, rather than try and do some kind of daily exercise to maintain fitness, shortens the time that I am ill.
    Five days after my first day of feeling better.. I did the race in my best time ever!

  • Craig Allingham

    Exercise Scientist, Physiotherapist

    Sports Physiotherapist for over 30 years, now more interested in teaching. Men's Health is my only clinical interest and not just the dangly bits. I … View Profile

    Generally your will sustain a fitness level for one to two weeks without much decrease unless you are unwell. Think of it as a taper or recovery cycle in your training program. Stressing about not training will do more harm than the actual lack of training.
    As to what you can do while sick, usually some stretching is OK and lots of mental practice. What?  Yep, imagining you are training can actually sustain your fitness in the absence of physical execution. But it needs to be a full on investment.  It is not enough to think, ‘I am now running or lifting weights’. You need to concentrate on the whole experience - feel the road, the breeze, the noises the smells, feel the burn and the work (but not necessarily the smell of the weights room).
    To make this even more powerful, put on your running shoes, shorts and singlet, or your lifting gloves, swim or cycling gear and then do your mental practice.
    Most importantly, let your body recover before you physically sress it as you may risk a relapse.

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