According to a 2012 study published in the journal Neuroscience (Neuroscience 2012 Jul 26;215:59-68), the “secret” to increased productivity and happiness on any given day is a long-term investment in regular exercise.1 And a little each day appears to go further than a lot once or twice a week.
It’s hard to think of a downside to exercise, but if there were one it would be this: most of its benefits are not permanent.
While there is evidence that people who exercise for decades may experience fitness and health gains in later life, there’s also evidence that some of those hard-earned benefits may disappear if you stop exercising.
How long does it take for your body to “notice” that you’ve stopped hitting the gym? Experts suggest just about two weeks and in some areas even less.
Another important question: how long should it be between practices?
Be aware that exercising too intensely and/or too frequently should be avoided. A general rule is that the more intense the exercise, the fewer times a week you should do it.
At that point, it’s wise to reduce the frequency of your sessions to give your body enough time to recover in between. In fact, you need to allow your body to fully recuperate in between sessions in order for the exercise to remain productive. Remember that as your fitness increases, the intensity of your exercise goes up, and the frequency that your body can tolerate goes down. As a result, you need to continuously customize your program to your own fitness level and other lifestyle issues.