The old adage “use it or lose it” appears to ring true in almost all areas of your general health and fitness. You just can’t store the benefits associated with a healthy lifestyle. Here are some areas that may be affected by neglect:

Cardio-Respiratory Fitness:


If you don’t challenge your heart, your aerobic capacity will definitely decrease with time and unfortunately, it becomes a vicious cycle.  You don’t exercise so you get out of shape, then daily activities start to become more challenging so you start to look for ways to make movement easier ie take the elevators and escalators instead of stairs, park closer, sit more, drive more etc.  Then your cardiovascular fitness deteriorates even further, you’re huffing and puffing more and starting to move even less because it’s uncomfortable. So stop the cycle and start moving your body and challenging your heart.

For those of you who do exercise regularly and find yourself out of your routine for whatever

reason, generally, after only one or two weeks of complete inactivity, significant reductions in cardio-vascular fitness can be measured. It seems to be the fitness component that is affected first by a lapse in training. But the good news is that you can reduce your frequency and duration of exercise by up to 2/3’s and as long as you maintain the same exercise intensity, you won’t notice any reductions in your fitness level for up to 10-15 weeks. So the message is try to get at least one or two hard workouts in a week to maintain all your progress.

Muscular Strength:

If you don’t force your muscles to contract against a good amount of force, they will atrophy – get smaller and weaker leading to decreased muscle endurance and strength, poor balance, slower metabolism, reduced bone density and poor posture.

If you want to maintain your muscles, you have to use them!

For those of you who do strength train, you’ll also notice significant reductions in this area if you opt for complete, long-term rest and relaxation. It does appear, however, that it’s easier to maintain strength when compared to aerobic conditioning. One high intensity strength training workout every 10 days will help maintain your strength until you can resume your regular exercise schedule.


As we get older, cross linkages in connective tissue develop causing more rigidity and inflexibility and the tissue becomes less elastic. As a result, older individuals will start to develop the typical “old person’s posture” all slumped, tight, rigid and immobile. And so as we get older, if we expect to enjoy a higher quality of life, maintaining flexibility is very important.  Many scientists believe that cardiovascular fitness is the most important fitness component to focus on as we get older. But we believe that flexibility is right up there because if we are tight, injured and in so much pain because of our lack of flexibility, we aren’t going to be able to move at all and thus, our cardiovascular fitness will suffer.


For older adults, a loss in balance and the ensuing falls are a widespread problem with serious physical consequences. Falls are the leading cause of injury in this population and can result in fractures, dislocations, sprains and deep, slow-to-heal bruises. Twenty-five percent of hip fracture patients never regain their previous level of independence; 10 percent die of fracture complications. Every year 30-50 percent of people over 65 years old sustain a fall; half of those who fall do so repeatedly. But, the good news is that balance is similar to your musculo-skeletal and cardiovascular systems. If you train it, you won’t lose it. It can be as easy as standing on one leg while brushing your teeth or making dinner.

Mind-Body Coordination:

There are certain sports that require a lower level of coordination; running, cycling, swimming, hiking. And, although, they are all great at developing your cardiovascular fitness, they won’t provide you with a high level of agility. If you want to stimulate your coordination, complement these activities with those that require you to think a little more and move your body in all kinds of different directions at different speeds. Sports like tennis, beach volleyball, basketball, soccer, ultimate frisbee, or field hockey will do the trick. Sign up for an advanced dance class or choreographed fitness class. Although you may feel awkward at first, within a few sessions you’ll notice that you’re keeping up. That’s a good sign that your mind-body coordination is improving.

As you can see, maintaining your health is not as hard as you might have thought. You just have to make it a priority and realize that you deserve to enjoy a high quality of life now and as you get older.

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for 25 years and has received numerous industry awards including International Personal Trainer and Fitness Presenter of the Year. She is the author of five books including “Go For Fit – the Winning Way to Fat Loss” and “Fit over Forty” and is the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs.  She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver and can be seen running, hiking or cycling with her two children, Brianna and Jackson.  She can be reached at or Note:  As an avid Columbian reader, you can redeem a 2 week pass at her world-class training studio to help get you started.  Contact 360.574.7292 for more details.  

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan, holds a master's degree in exercise physiology and has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 33 years. She has received numerous industry awards including 2010 CanFitPro International Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year and 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year - Runner up. She is a fitness trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals including "Go For Fit - the Winning Way to Fat Loss" and "Fit over Forty" and the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She has presented hundreds of workshops to thousands of fitness leaders throughout Canada, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, England, Spain, South America, Asia and the U.S. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver, the founder of WHY Racing Events & WHY Community, participates in various community fundraisers and can be found running, biking, or hiking around the community. Find more information at

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