Don't worry about exercising while on vacation. Time off can be great for muscle gains, according to a personal trainer.

Don't worry about exercising while on vacation. Time off can be great for muscle gains, according to a personal trainer.
Taking a break from your workout routine while on holiday can be a good thing. Getty/Kevin Kozicki
  • Taking a workout break while on vacation can actually help you reach your fitness goals.
  • Personal trainer Luke Worthington said that it's when we recover that we make progress.
  • If you exercise for your mental health, however, it can be worth keeping active in a gentle way.

If going on vacation and taking time off from your usual workouts fills you with panic, don't fear. A training break can actually boost your fitness progress, according to a personal trainer.

Luke Worthington, who has trained both elite athletes and Hollywood stars like Robert Pattinson and Dakota Johnson, told Insider that it's actually when we're resting that we make gains.

"Something that not every exercise enthusiast realizes is that we don't get fitter, stronger, lose body fat, or build muscle while we train," he said. "All of those things happen in the time when we recover in between workouts, and most of those things actually happen when we sleep."

Working out is a stress to our body and nervous system

When we workout, we cause damage to both our bodies and our nervous systems. When we rest, our bodies repair themselves and get stronger so we can deal with that stress better next time, Worthington said.

"If we have been working out consistently and effectively, then taking a planned break while on holiday can actually be one of the most physiologically beneficial things we can do," he said.


That's why elite athletes often taper down their training for a couple of weeks before competing in order to peak for their event.

However, if you've been exercising sporadically and struggling to get into a routine, a break may disrupt your rhythm. In that case, working some movement into your vacation may be beneficial for creating healthy habits.

You won't lose strength and fitness from a few weeks off

Research, such as this small 2017 study on young men, suggests that both strength and aerobic fitness are maintained for at least two weeks before declining if a person doesn't train. According to Worthington, the body may be able to sustain its gains for up to four weeks.

"It's highly likely that you'll actually get stronger during a rest," he reiterated.

Speed, however, declines more quickly, after about a week off, according to Worthington, which may be a consideration for competitive athletes.


If exercise is key for your mental health, keep at it

While physiologically taking a break from training is "nothing to worry about," according to Worthington, keeping active can be a good idea for your mental health.

Some people benefit psychologically from a break, but others can benefit from incorporating some movement into a vacation. Worthington recommends sticking to low intensity steady state exercise, like walking or swimming, to reap the mental rewards while also giving your body a chance to recover.

If you can't talk while doing your exercise, it's too intense, Worthington said, and he advises doing no longer than 40-minute sessions.

"If your main reasons for exercise is physical fitness, don't worry about it!" Worthington said. "If your main reason for exercise is emotional well being, then don't set yourself back by taking an enforced break, but do dial it back to lower intensity work to allow you to physically rest, but still maintain your well being."