Use it or lose it

Use it or lose it: The truth behind the saying

Use it or lose it: The truth behind the saying


Use it or lose it: The truth behind the saying


If you don’t use it you lose it. This is a common saying in the fitness industry, but how much fact is there behind this? The positive effects of exercise can be felt for between 24-48 hours post session. After that time those effects begin to steadily decline over the next 7-10 days. This becomes exponentially worse over the next 2-3 weeks if significant reductions in activity are continued. The decrease in strength, cardiovascular and flexibility will happen at varied times. It is currently accepted that you will lose around half your fitness if you don’t train at all for a week. Another common idea is that those who possess higher levels of fitness will experience less severe deconditioning when they are inactive for a length of time.

Cardio fitness can be lost in as little as a few days. This is mainly due to the nature of this system it is highly variable. So to maintain the ideal levels of fitness it is important to be exercising regularly. This is why current exercise recommendations from the ACSM recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 25 minutes of high intensity exercise 3 times per week. This amount of exercise is the minimum required to reduce the majority of chronic disease risk as well. To work towards weight loss or other goals will require significantly more exercise load.

Strength will take longer to start to see regression. It will usually take up to 7-10 days to see any strength losses. So missing one or two workouts through a week wont produce any significant losses. Most research in to strength loss supports that you would lose around 7-10 percent of strength you have built after 2 weeks. What this means is that as long as you continue you with some activity you can avoid any significant strength losses in a 2-week period.

Flexibility much like cardio fitness is highly variable and individualised. When examining flexibility a number of factors have to be considered. These include; age, sport, activity levels, genetics, previous injuries, sex, compensatory patterns and occupation. All of these will affect an individual’s flexibility. As a general rule a full body stretching program completed 2-3 times per week, holding each stretch for 30-60 seconds 1-3 times each side is enough to maintain/or improve a person’s flexibility. So how long would it take for your flexibility to decrease with out regular stretching? Flexibility for some people can decrease in a few hours, or a day, or over several days. This again is highly variable and would be altered to fit a persons specific needs and situation.

The take home message is to exercise (cardio, strength and/or flexibility training) everyday to continue to see benefits. It is always better to do some activity than nothing at all. As an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) I am passionate about helping people achieve their goals through exercise. A well structured and individualised program can have a multitude of benefits in a persons life. Exercise is medicine.

If you have any further questions please call (03) 9826 2122 to make a booking today.

For more information visit the Exercise Science and Sports Australia (ESSA) website:

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SYSSM Exercise Physiologist & Remedial Massage Therapist

Nicholas holds accreditations in both Exercise Physiology and Remedial Massage, and is passionate about the combination of the two disciplines, to develop a holistic approach to musculoskeletal concerns, enabling his patients to achieve a functionally strong and healthy body.