Can Yo-Yo Exercising Actually Be Harmful?

Yo-yo exercising is a term used to refer to an off-and-on again relationship with exercise. Similar to yo-yo dieting, yo-yo exercising is when you start a new fitness routine only to abandon it and start all over again (via Well+Good). This is often a result of doing too much too soon and feeling burned out. For many, this looks like jumping back into a physically demanding workout routine after not exercising for a while and then stopping when it gets to be too much. This can derail your progress for weeks or even months at a time.

While this type of bouncing back and forth is certainly not uncommon, it can actually be harmful to your body. In fact, yo-yo exercising will not only make you sore but can also damage your muscle fibers. According to Dr. Bill Sukala, an exercise physiologist with a doctorate in exercise science, demanding workouts can be good for your body, but not if they're causing you pain. That's why it's better to take it slow when you're getting back in shape. "Even comparably gentler exercise can improve your health and reduce the risk of injury and disease," Dr. Sukala told Well+Good.

How to safely get back in shape

If you're looking to safely get back in shape without injuring yourself, you should start small. Doing too much too soon can hinder your progress and result in injury, but taking it slow can help you gradually build muscle mass and endurance over time, which is more tolerable and sustainable (via Verywell Fit). For instance, you can ease back into exercise by either doing light cardio for 30 minutes every weekday, intense cardio for 25 minutes three days a week, or eight to 10 weight training exercises twice a week.

If you're looking for a more comprehensive workout program, however, Verywell Fit recommends sticking to a four-week program that gradually increases your fitness level. During the first week, you can start with three days of cardio, two days of weight training, and two days of rest — the second week only includes one day of complete rest. During the third and fourth weeks, your fitness routine should increase in intensity until your cardio workout is longer and your active rest days consist of more walking.