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Why Do We Become Unfit? Here’s How To Maintain Fitness

3rd May 2023

3rd May 2023

By Beth Shelper

We’ve all been there – your rest day lasted a little bit too long. Talk about rest week, or maybe even rest month(s). Now you’re stuck in the vicious cycle of wanting to get back into it, but not wanting to get back into it because you just know that you’ve lost some of that all-important progress that you made in terms of fitness, stamina and technique.

Don’t worry – it’s totally normal. And more so something that we’ve all struggled with. But why does exercise get harder when we’ve been doing less? What is the science behind becoming unfit?

Well, Leeds University have provided the answers. The answers we’ve all been waiting for, more accurately.

But first, what do we technically mean by ‘unfit’ and is it truly feasible to always maintain fitness? Why is it that exercise gets harder?

Here’s what ‘unfit’ really means

When one describes a physically unfit person, there are a few key signs and features that are considered. It’s important to note that being described as unfit isn’t a personal or even negative description, just one that considers physical and psychological attributes and abilities.

Key signs of an ‘unfit’ person include:

  • Laboured breathing
  • Chronic illness
  • Excess weight
  • Insomnia
  • A high resting heart rate
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure

The study: why exercise gets harder the less you do

The brand-new study released by students from The University of Leeds investigates the age-old conundrum around a decrease in performance and ability following a lack of exercise.

The study was conducted through the observation of mice, chosen due to our sharing of a particular protein: Piezo1, a blood flow sensor that is thought to have a pretty large impact on the transportation of blood to the muscles, and as a result, of course, on our performance during exercise.

The study (and the mice) highlighted a crucial link between exercise and the production of the Piezo1 protein, showing that the less exercise we do, the less of this protein is produced, and thus when we do eventually reengage in said exercise, it’s levels are limited.

Aka – exercise gets harder because our ability to exercise reduces from a scientific perspective. This shows its actually nothing to do with motivation at all, either.

So, how can we maintain fitness?

From these findings, and from our understanding of health and wellness, its clear that maintaining fitness is pretty important. We’re only human, and we all slip up from time-to-time, but by putting in that extra bit of effort, we can make things easier for ourselves in the long run.

If you’re struggling to get fitter or to maintain your motivation, try out some of the below tips and remember whilst you should always push yourself to do better, it’s just as important to listen to your body and rest when you need it. That’s all part of progress, too.

  • Keep it up, little and often

When we talk about exercise, that doesn’t always have to mean an extended session at the gym, all-day every day. It’s all about getting examples of exercise in little and often.

Walk to the corner shop rather than drive, take advantage of your lunch break and go on a quick walk, get outside and go for a short run around the block, or even cycle to work (where you can) when the weather is nice.

These are all great examples of integrating exercise into your routine in a realistic and manageable way!

  • Set realistic goals

If you haven’t been on a run in a little while and you’re thinking of running a marathon next week, we’re going to go out on a limb here and say it’s probably not the best idea. Aside from setting yourself up for a pretty painful experience, it’s quite likely that you’ll injure yourself here.

So, whilst its admirable that you’re setting your sights and expectations high – and whilst we have no doubt that you’ll get to that marathon finishing line following a good training regime, make sure that the goals you set are realistic, and you’re able to hit them often to keep those motivation levels tip-top.

  • Create attractive rewards

If you planned to go to the gym 3 times this week and you went 3 times: you’ve got to reward yourself. Whether that’s an extra 30 minutes in bed, a cheeky extra treat on the shopping list, or even that pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing up online, treat yo’ self! It’s all about recognising your achievements and rewarding yourself for them.

  • Bring a buddy

Exercising can be boring if you’re lacking the motivation, but you’d be surprised how much your mood changes if you bring a friend along for the ride. Whether its your parent, friend, colleague or even your dog that joins you for that evening run around the park, you don’t always have to go solo.

  • Fuel yourself sufficiently

Exercising too hard can leave you feeling completely depleted of energy, and actually be detrimental to your physical development. Make sure you're feeding your body with ingredients that will help you to recover and replenish fully to avoid injuries that might take you off course for longer than you'd hope. Try The Recover Capsules to give your body the nutrients it needs, along with a protein blend to support muscle recovery and development. 

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From the Bedroom to the Gym: Is Your Sex Life Affecting Your Workout Performance?
The relationship between sex and workout performance is one that’s long been debated by scientists and fitness fanatics alike. It’s complicated and multifaceted, so answering the question of whether your sex life is affecting your training is difficult. That said, today we’re going to take a look at a variety of evidence, both academic and anecdotal, as well as several different scenarios and at least try to reduce some of the mystery around the subject. First, it helps to understand what’s actually happening to the body, both physically and psychologically, during both activities.   The Effects of Sex on the Body Sexual activity causes several changes to occur in the body:   Physical Changes That Occur During Sex During sexual activity and the lead up to it, the human body undergoes a process known as the sexual response cycle. This is the case for both males and females, though the cycle can be highly individual and may not be the same each time for each person. Describing the full sexual response cycle is beyond the scope of this article, however it consists of 4 phases: Desire Arousal Orgasm Resolution Factors such as elevated heart rate, increased blood flow and pressure and heightened muscle tension all come into play. If you’d like to read about the sexual response cycle in more detail, check out this great article from Cleveland Clinic.   Psychological Changes That Occur During Sex Several psychological changes occur both during and after sex. Most notable are the release of endorphins and oxytocin, which are associated with improved mood and a better sense of wellbeing. These are also responsible for reduced stress levels, which brings a multitude of additional benefits that are of particular interest to those of us participating in regular training and exercise. Cortisol, the hormone responsible for stress, is catabolic in high levels, meaning it can cause the breakdown of lean tissue. So, whilst it is unclear whether sex itself affects workout performance, the reduction in stress levels it may bring is definitely beneficial for preserving our results!   The Effects of Exercise and Training on the Body Exercise and training also cause the body to undergo a number of changes. These occur both during and after the physical activity. There are in fact a number of similarities in changes that happen during exercise and sex:   Physical Changes That Occur During Exercise The physical changes that happen in the body vary based on the type of exercise being undertaken, however, there are some that are common to exercise in general: Increased heart rate Increased blood flow, especially to the muscles Faster, deeper breathing due to additional oxygen needs Heightened activity within the circulatory, respiratory, musculoskeletal and endocrine systems A full summary of the changes that occur within these systems can be found here. More aerobically demanding exercise will, of course, place greater emphasis on the circulatory and respiratory systems as well as causing fat to be metabolised as an energy source. Resistance training, which often relies more heavily on the lactate and creatine phosphate energy systems, instead promotes greater muscular and endocrine (hormone) activity. Note the common physical changes between sex and exercise here, as they do crossover!   Psychological Changes That Occur During Exercise The psychological changes that occur during exercise are similar to those experienced during sexual activity and are mostly related to the release of endorphins and other ‘feelgood’ hormones. These help to regulate mood, and it is common knowledge that frequent exercise and leading an active, healthy lifestyle promotes a feeling of wellbeing.   Does Sex Affect Our Workouts? This is where things become complicated. Though extensive studies have been done on the subject, the results of these have varied massively. We must also take into account the experience of individuals, and this anecdotal evidence again has huge variance. Let’s look at both:   Sex and Training: What the Science Says Scientific studies on the relationship between sex and training are contradictory at best. There’s no denying the positive benefits of both activities, particularly from a psychological perspective, but as for the effect of sex on actual performance in the gym the results are inconclusive. A study, published in April 2021, by Kirecci, Albayrak and co. examined the effects of sexual activity of 50 men in the 24 hours prior to training on lower body strength. The study measured effects by having the men perform 3 separate squat sessions, each at the same time of day. Each of these sessions occurred after participating in or abstaining from sexual activity the night before. The men performed 5 sets of 5 repetitions of their maximum squat weight during these sessions and the difference in weight lifted was observed. The study concluded that ‘sexual intercourse within 24 hours before exercise [has a] detrimental effect on lower extremity muscle force, which suggests that restricting sexual activity before a short-term activity may be necessary.’ Aside from this study, most others found either no notable relationship between sex and athletic performance. A meta-analysis of 9 crossover studies, conducted by Zavorsky and Brooks and published on 16 September 2022, confirms this. The analysis concluded that ‘The results demonstrate that sexual activity within 30 min to 24 h before exercise does not appear to affect aerobic fitness, musculoskeletal endurance, or strength/power.’ This is perhaps more notable, because these studies incorporated different types of exercise and were not restricted purely to a strength/power based activity like squats.   Anecdotal Evidence: What About the Experiences of Real Gym Goers? The anecdotal evidence is, as expected, highly individualised. However, there tends to be a bias against the results of most studies, particularly in those participating in sports involving strength and aggression. For example, many fighters claim that they perform better when they abstain from sex in the days leading up to a contest. Similarly, bodybuilding forums are full of debate on this topic and many claim they note a significant decrease in motivation to train at maximum intensity after sexual activity. It has been hypothesised that this may be due to a downregulation in testosterone production after sex; during orgasm the mineral zinc is released in the body and this is also a precursor for natural testosterone production in the body and may, therefore, provide some reasoning as to the experience of many trainees.   Key Takeaways The relationship between sex and workout performance will always be a complicated one. The effects of one on the other in terms of physical fitness and, in particular, mental wellbeing, are clear, but when it comes to actual performance this appears to be highly individual. We’d advise doing what feels best for you but not worrying too much about it. Instead, prioritise your nutrition and make sure you’re fuelling your workouts properly. While you’re here, why not take a look at the Innermost range? We’re proud to be completely transparent about the ingredients in our products and we always ensure they’re of the highest quality. Check us out, and be sure to get in touch if you have any questions! Read more