Chronic adaptations are not permanent. As the saying goes, “Use it or lose it.”
The principle of reversibility suggests that activity must continue at the same level to keep the same level of adaptation. As activity declines, called detraining, adaptations will recede.
In cardiorespiratory endurance, key areas, such as VO2max, stroke volume, and cardiac output all declined with detraining while submaximal heat rate increased. In one study, trained subjects were given bed rest for 20 days. At the end of the bed rest phase, VO2max had fallen by 27% and stroke volume and cardiac output had fallen by 25%. The most well-trained subjects in the study had to train for nearly 40 days following bed rest to get back into pre-rest condition. In a study of collegiate swimmers, lactic acid in the blood after a 2-minute swim more than doubled after 4 weeks of detraining, showing the ability to buffer lactic acid was dramatically affected.
Not only is endurance training affected, but muscular strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility all show similar results after a period of detraining.
Dawn Markell & Diane Peterson, Health and Fitness for Life. MHCC Library Press. Sept 4, 2019. https://mhcc.pressbooks.pub/hpe295