Blog Fitness What Happens To Your Body When You Exercise: A Step-By-Step Explanation

What Happens To Your Body When You Exercise: A Step-By-Step Explanation

what happens to your body when you exercise

What Happens To Your Body When You Exercise

What happens to your body when you exercise? This is a question that many people new to or considering working out often wonder. While most of us are familiar with the weight loss aspect, there are many more advantages to exercising regularly. BetterMe

What happens to your body when you exercise regularly

Maybe you just started incorporating workouts into your life or are considering exercising for the first time. If you are unsure about what changes to expect and wonder ‘What happens to your body when you exercise everyday?’ here are some great things that happen to your body when you exercise (6)

Weight loss and weight maintenance

Most people usually join a gym or start doing at-home workouts in the hope of losing excess weight. If you watch your portions, eat healthy food, and mind your calorie intake, working out will most likely help you get rid of those stubborn extra pounds.

On the other hand, once you achieve your desired weight (or are already happy with your weight), working out can help you maintain this weight.  BetterMe

Muscle gain

The quickest way to get those abs that you admire so much is through working out. Exercising causes micro-tears in your muscle fibers and connective tissues. With rest and proper nutrition, these small tears build back up and make your muscles stronger and bigger.

Eventually, you will get abs, the muscles in your arms will be more pronounced, and you can finally have that enviable shapely butt that you admire so much on your Instagram feed.

Improved mood

These are both neurotransmitters that transmit signals from nerve cells to muscles, glands, or other nerves. Endorphins inhibit pain signals and create an energized, euphoric feeling while serotonin helps regulate mood, appetite, blood clotting, sleep, and the body’s circadian rhythm (19).

People with depression and anxiety may benefit from working out since serotonin release helps relieve these two conditions. Endorphins, on the other hand, are released through aerobic exercises such as running. The ‘runner’s high’ is one of the side effects of endorphins that provides a positive feeling in the body, similar to morphine (7).

Read More: Mantra Meditation: Empowering Words That’ll Put You Into A Better Headspace  BetterMe

Improved heart health

Working out increases blood flow through your heart, sending more oxygen to your organs and muscles. Exercising also improves your blood pressure, lowers your resting heart rate, and decreases cholesterol levels (21). This, in turn, helps manage and prevent the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and stroke.

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Improve brain function and reduce the risk of dementia

Physical activity increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. It aids the release of hormones, which provide an excellent environment for the growth of brain cells. In 2019, a study revealed that working out may help prevent and delay the onset of dementia and cognitive impairment in older adults (12).  what happens to your body when you exercise

Improves your immune system

An increased heart rate during exercise prompts immune cells to be ready to attack any pathogens that might be found in your body. While this is a short-lived thing, when done over time, it helps strengthen your body’s defenses (1).

Better sleep

Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster, get better sleep, and deepen your sleep.

A better sex life

If you are having trouble with physical intimacy with your partner, exercising could be just the thing to help you out. Workouts such as cardio, swimming, core and abs exercises as well as planks can build up your stamina and energize your libido (8).  what happens to your body when you exercise

Help your body manage blood sugar and insulin levels

Exercise can lower your blood sugar level and help your insulin work better. This can cut down your risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. If you already have either of these diseases, exercise can help you to manage it. Remember that you must first consult your doctor before attempting any workout plan.

Better balance to prevent falling

For older people aged 65 years old and above, workouts such as gait and coordination training, resistance/strength training, aerobics and yoga can help their balance while strengthening their muscles and joints. This keeps them from falling over and breaking their bones (16).

Read More: Balance Exercises For Seniors: Simple Moves To Help Improve Balance And Coordination In Older Adults  what happens to your body when you exercise

What happens to your body when you don’t exercise?

Even with the knowledge of all the fantastic benefits of working out, most of us do not do it. This could be due to busy schedules, exhaustion, or we just do not feel like it. However, have you ever considered what happens to your body when you don’t exercise?

Here are some things that happen:

  • Weakened bones and joints

As stated above, regular physical exercise works to strengthen your bones and joints. On the other hand, the lack of it makes you prone to osteopenia and osteoporosis.

  • Increased risks of certain types of cancers

In recent years, research has found that light physical activity can significantly reduce the risk of getting cancers such as colon, breast, endometrial, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, stomach cancer, kidney cancer, and myeloid leukemia.

Working out also has positive effects on the decreased risk of multiple myeloma (a blood cancer), as well as cancers of the head and neck, rectum, bladder, and lung cancer in current and former smokers. When you do not exercise, you are heightening your chances of getting any of the above types of cancer (9).

  • Weight gain

As we all know, the most obvious answer to what happens to your body when you exercise is a smaller waist and overall weight loss. A sedentary lifestyle does the opposite. The more you spent your time seated at your desk or on the couch, the fewer calories you burn. This, in turn, more often than not, leads to weight gain and an ever-expanding waistline.

  • Higher risk of cardiovascular diseases

The heart is a muscle like any other, and it responds to the strain from exercise by getting stronger. Your heart is not as strong as it should be without this strain, leaving you prone to heart attack, stroke, and other various heart diseases.

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What happens to your body when you exercise too much?

Working out is a great thing, and being dedicated to working out is the best outlook that anyone willing to lose weight or just do more physical activity can do. However, there is such a thing as over-exercising. Going to the extremes and being too enthusiastic about how your body can change can lead to:

  • Hormonal changes and imbalances

For most people, the main reason they work out is losing weight and gaining muscle in place of the lost fat. However, pushing your body too hard through over-exercising can cause the opposite to happen. Overworking the body can cause the excess secretion of testosterone and cortisol.

Also known as the stress hormone, main cortisol functions include mediating the stress response, regulating metabolism, the inflammatory response, and immune function (13). Overworking the body causes an increase in the production and secretion of this hormone, leading to overeating, thus gaining weight and feeling stressed. Sometimes your body can also begin to burn muscle instead of burning fat (17).  what happens to your body when you exercise

  • Appetite suppression

Exercise-induced anorexia is a fairly common situation whereby feelings of appetite are transiently suppressed during exercise (3). Ordinarily, this feeling usually passes in about 30 to 60 minutes after working out.

However, when you work out too much, this feeling may not dissipate. Due to the secretion of the two hormones, epinephrine and norepinephrine, your appetite might be suppressed more than normal (17). This should not excite you. When you eat too little calories and exercise a lot, your body rebels against burning fat. It thinks that you are starving and, in turn, slows down your metabolism and holds on to your fat stores in order to save you from this perceived starvation (5).

  • A weakened immune system

While working out regularly can have positive effects on the immune system, overworking yourself can weaken it. If you do not give your body ample time to rest and recover, you will be fatigued and run the risk of damaging your muscles.

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To prevent this, the body redirects energy that is usually reserved for proper immune-system function to repair the overused and overworked muscles and bones. During this time, something as small as the common flu could leave you bedridden.

If you keep having recurring illnesses and just started working out, part of the problem could be straining your immune system by working out too much. Rest days are very important, and anyone who works out – be it a beginner or veteran should rest at least on one or two days of the week.

  • Elevated resting heart rate

Say that your heart beats 70 times per minute, and you realize that it is now beating at 85 beats a minute when you are not working out. This is referred to as an elevated resting pulse rate, and it is generally considered a marker of overtraining in endurance athletes who greatly increase their workout distance (11).

A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute, and a lower heart rate at rest implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness (22). The best way to track if your heart rate is increasing is to measure how many times it beats before and after you are done with your exercise.

  • Musculoskeletal Changes and Rhabdomyolysis

Our bones and muscles need about 24 to 48 hours of rest in order to repair any damage caused by working out. Lack of this rest time will weaken you, making it harder to do previously easy exercises. Continuing to workout out in this weakened state leads to sprains or muscle tears.

Further sprains and tears can worsen and form into muscle damage known as rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis occurs when muscle breakdown becomes so severe that the muscle proteins enter the bloodstream. These proteins then travel to the kidneys making urine turn dark. Lack of treatment leads to life-threatening complications such as kidney failure (17).

  • Amenorrhea

This only occurs in women. Amenorrhea is the absence of menstruation for three consecutive months or more. It also occurs to girls who haven’t begun menstruation by age 15. This condition is caused by excessively low body weight (a side effect of low-calorie diets), working out too much and stress (4).  what happens to your body when you exercise

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What happens to your body when you exercise really hard daily?

No matter how much you love working out, it is a good idea to always pace yourself no matter what level you are at in the workout program – beginner intermediate or expert. A great way to do this is by alternating between low, moderate, and high-intensity workouts. This is known as periodization, and it provides different methods for structuring workout intensity to allow for proper rest after exercise (2).

If you choose to disregard this and work out really hard every day without resting, your body will start letting you know that it has reached its limits. Some of the signs and symptoms that you will experience include (14):

  • Decreased appetite
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Increased incidence of injuries
  • Insomnia
  • A compulsive need to workout
  • Lower immunity
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Aching joints, muscles and general body aches
  • A sudden drop in performance 

what happens to your body when you exercise

The Bottom Line

The answers to what happens to your body when you exercise are endless. Not only does your physical appearance change for the better, but you also get positive effects on your heart, brain, lungs, and even prevention from certain types of cancer.

So, instead of spending another day seated and binging on Netflix, take 30 minutes to an hour out of your day and work out. The benefits from it beat any short-term exhaustion that you might feel as you exercise.

However, as always, remember to talk to your doctor before attempting any workout program. This is especially essential for anyone with a chronic illness.  what happens to your body when you exercise


What happens to your body when you exercise without eating proteins?

The average person requires a minimum of 10% of their daily calories to come from protein. Lack of enough proteins in your diet causes signs such as swelling, mood swings, hunger, weakness and fatigue, slow-healing injuries, and more (15).

If you are working out, what happens to your body when you exercise without eating proteins? Other than the above-mentioned problems, you are bound to lose muscle. Muscle wasting happens because you lack proteins that are essential for muscle growth, strength, and repair.

Lack of protein in your diet while working out leads to muscle cramping, weakness, and soreness because your body takes away the protein in your muscle tissue and uses it as energy to support other vital body functions (18).

What happens to your body when you take a week off from exercise

We have all at one time or the other, taken a rest day that turned into two weeks, one, three, or even six months of not working out. If you are thinking about taking some time off from the gym here is what happens to your body when you take a week off from exercise:

  • Your muscles get ample time to rest and repair themselves

Taking just a week off from working out is actually a great idea. You will not lose any muscle mass, and neither will your hard-earned gains disappear in seven days.

  • You will feel more relaxed and energized

Working 365 days a year is not normal, and neither is working out for this long. A week off is a great deviation from your routine as it gives you a much deserved mental break (10).

See also
How Much Running To Lose Weight? How To Use Cardio Effectively To Meet Your Fitness Goals

That being said, remember only to take a week off. More than that could be detrimental to your cardio abilities that begin to diminish after two weeks. Muscle gains, on the other hand, can last for an entire month.  Lack of exercise for more than two weeks will lead to higher energy levels in the body and reduce the need for deep sleep, which could lead to restless or insufficient sleep (20). BetterMe


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. 4 Ways Your Workout Routine Is Linked to Your Immune System (2020,
  2. 8 Reasons to Take a Rest Day (2018,
  3. Acute and Chronic Effects of Exercise on Appetite, Energy Intake, and Appetite-Related Hormones: The Modulating Effect of Adiposity, Sex, and Habitual Physical Activity (2018,
  4. Amenorrhea (2019,
  5. Can Too Much Exercise and a Lack of Calories Cause Weight Gain? (n.d
  6. Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity (2019,
  7. Exercise and Depression (2020,
  8. Exercises for Better Sex (2018,
  9. Exercise Linked With Lower Risk of 13 Types of Cancer (2016,
  10. How to Take a Week Off From Working Out (2019,
  11. Increased Morning Heart Rate in Runners: A Valid Sign of Overtraining? (1985,
  12. Physical exercise for prevention of dementia (EPD) study: background, design and methods (2019,
  13. Physiology, Cortisol (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.go)
  14. Signs and Symptoms of Overtraining Syndrome in Athletes (2020,
  15. Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Protein (2018,
  16. Simple exercises to prevent falls (2014,
  17. The Dangers of Working Out Too Much (2019,
  18. The Effects of Protein Deficiency (2020,
  19. What are neurotransmitters? (2019,
  20. What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Working Out for 2 Weeks (n.d,
  21. What Really Happens to Your Body When You Start Exercising (2019,
  22. What’s a normal resting heart rate? (2018,
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