The Real Science of Sport Podcast


S3 E9: How Fast Do We Lose Fitness? / The Art of Fitness Resilience

Season 3, Ep. 9

When it comes to fitness it's a case of use it... or lose it! But how fast do we lose fitness, how can we limit the damage when we take time off and is there such a thing as muscle memory?


Kramer et al 2017 - an amazing study where people were given bed rest for 60 days, and various physiological measures were assessed before and after. This study found that even 3 min of hopping six days a week cut these changes enormously:

Chi et al 1983 - this is the study we discuss where 6 to 12 weeks off causes the oxidative enzymes to drop significantly, but they still remain well above the levels of never-trained people:

Maldonado-Martin 2017 - this is the study on elite cyclists who stopped for the 4 week off season, and VO2max, RBC, Skinfolds and peak power were among the variables measured:

Garcia-Palleres 2009 - the kayaking study, where some elite kayakers stopped training entirely, others did about 20% to 30% of their normal training and cut their losses in half:

Houmard et al 1990 - a study on runners where keeping the intensity of training the same allowed for certain performances to be defended even though volume was cut down significantly:

Madsen et al 1993 - another runner study, this one showing how high intensity training defends high intensity physiology, but the fat oxidation and endurance capacity drops off significantly:

Henwood et al 2008 - one of the two strength training studies we discuss, where detraining and then retraining is able to return strength to pre-detraining levels within about half the time it took to lose it:

Blocquiaux et al 2020 - the other strength study, which also found a drop in strength that could be regained in about half the time it took to lose it:

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