Evidence shows that two weeks of detraining is sufficient to cause a significant reduction in aerobic fitness. However, how quickly you lose your fitness and strength depends on several factors, including how fit you are, how long you have been exercising and how long you stop for.
Losses in strength and fitness are greater in beginners than trained athletes. One study showed that beginners, who quit exercising after two months, lost all their aerobic gains and returned to their original fitness levels within two months of being inactive.
In comparison, a study on athletes showed that after three months of stopping exercise entirely, the athletes had lost about half of their aerobic gains over the last year. So, the fitter you are, the less fitness you will lose if you have a break from training.
On average it takes two weeks to rebuild the fitness lost for each week of inactivity. This is something to consider over the Christmas break as it would be a shame to lose what you have worked so hard for.
Decreasing training level doesn’t result in the same loss of strength as completely stopping all exercise. So at Christmas time if you can’t maintain your usual training level then don’t stop completely. Even doing small amounts of weight bearing activity will minimise the amount of strength you lose. To minimize losses in aerobic fitness, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five times per week.
Feel free to ask the Fitnance staff about a maintenance program you can do at home over the Christmas break, and remember, it is a complete break from exercise for more than 2-3 weeks that will be the most detrimental.