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Is it okay to not exercise for 5 days?

Getting regular exercise is important for maintaining good health and preventing chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. However, life sometimes gets in the way, and you may need to take a break from your normal exercise routine for a few days. Is it okay to not exercise for 5 days? Here is a look at how taking a break from exercise for less than a week may impact your health and fitness.

How Exercise Impacts Health

Regular exercise provides many benefits for both physical and mental health. Some of the key ways that exercise helps include:

  • Strengthening muscles and bones
  • Improving cardiovascular fitness
  • Helping maintain a healthy body weight
  • Reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Lowering stress and boosting mood
  • Reducing risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers

For these reasons, health organizations like the World Health Organization, American Heart Association, and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise per week, along with muscle strengthening activities at least 2 days per week.

Impact of Taking a Break from Exercise

Will taking a break from your normal exercise routine for 5 days negatively impact your health? Here is a look at what may happen if you stop exercising for less than a week:

Cardiovascular Fitness

Your cardiovascular fitness level is a measure of how well your heart, lungs, and muscles work together during exercise. It is an important factor in endurance and being able to carry out daily activities. Cardiovascular fitness typically declines at a rate of about 1% per week without exercise. So after 5 days without training, you may expect up to a 1-2% drop in cardiovascular fitness. However, this decline is generally small and reversible with return to normal exercise.

Muscle Strength and Endurance

Strength training helps build and maintain muscle mass. Without regular strength training, muscle strength can start to decline within just 1-2 weeks. After 5 days without training, you may notice a slight decrease in your muscular strength and endurance. Again, this should be minimal and can be reversed by resuming your normal routine.

Weight Management

Exercise helps burn calories and plays an important role in weight management. Going just a few days without exercise is unlikely to result in noticeable weight gain, as long as you do not significantly increase your calorie intake. However, taking a full week or more off exercise could start to impact your ability to maintain your weight if your diet remains the same.

Mental Health

Exercise has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. It also helps manage stress and boost mood. After just 5 days without training, you may start to experience more negative moods or higher perceived stress levels. Getting back into your routine should help stabilize your mental health.

Tips for Taking a Short Break from Exercise

If you do need to take 5 days off from exercise, here are some tips to help make the most of the time off and quickly get back on track:

  • Plan to take time off after a hard training cycle or event – this can serve as an active rest period for your body to recover
  • Focus on nutrition – be extra diligent about your diet to avoid weight gain
  • Do light activity when possible – take a walk, do some stretching or yoga, take the stairs
  • Get plenty of sleep – use the time to catch up on rest and recovery
  • Recharge mentally – give your mind a break too by relaxing, meditating, or doing something enjoyable
  • Make a plan to resume exercise – schedule your workouts in advance to stay on track
  • Start slow when you return – ease back into your routine to prevent injury

Longer Breaks from Exercise

While 5 days off from working out will have minimal negative effects, longer breaks can start to undo your hard work and progress. Here is an overview of what may happen with 1, 2, 3, or 4 weeks without exercise:

Time Off Exercise Expected Changes
1 week off
  • 3-5% decrease in cardiovascular fitness
  • 5-10% decrease in muscle strength
  • Slight increase in body fat percentage
  • Increased stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms
2 weeks off
  • 7-10% decrease in cardiovascular fitness
  • 10-20% decrease in muscle strength
  • 1-3 pound weight gain possible
  • Noticeably increased stress and worsened mood
3 weeks off
  • 10-15% decrease in cardiovascular fitness
  • 15-30% decrease in muscle strength
  • 2-5 pound weight gain possible
  • Greatly increased stress, anxiety, depressive symptoms
4 weeks off
  • 15-20% decrease in cardiovascular fitness
  • 20-40% decrease in muscle strength
  • 3-7 pound weight gain possible
  • Significantly worsened mental health

As the table illustrates, just a few weeks without exercise can start to reverse the progress you have made in your fitness level and overall health. The longer you take off, the more dramatic the declines are likely to be.

Special Considerations

For some people, taking a full week or more off from exercise may be unavoidable or even advised in certain situations like:

  • Injury – Taking time off to rest and heal an injury can be important for proper recovery.
  • Illness – Exercising with an illness like the cold, flu, or COVID-19 can prolong symptoms and delay healing.
  • Pregnancy – Some modification of exercise routines may be necessary during pregnancy, based on individual circumstances.
  • Surgery – Following medical procedures, exercise is typically restricted during initial healing and recovery.
  • Travel – Vacations, work trips, or other travel commitments may limit ability to maintain a regular workout schedule.
  • Life demands – Busy periods with work, family, or other obligations could require taking time off from planned workouts.

In these scenarios, it is usually fine to take an exercise break as your health situation warrants. Stay in touch with your healthcare provider for specific advice. Once able, ease back into exercise gradually.


Taking up to a week off from exercise is unlikely to cause major fitness declines or health consequences, as long as you don’t overeat and remain moderately active. However, extended breaks of a month or longer can lead to noticeable reversal of progress. While occasional short breaks in your routine are perfectly fine, aim to get back on track as soon as realistically possible for optimal health.