Muscle Tension From Lack of Exercise

The benefits of exercise are not purely cosmetic. Instead, exercise is necessary to help you maintain healthy muscles and to send oxygen-rich blood to your tissues. If you have been sedentary for some time, you may experience unpleasant side effects, such as muscle tension that can make performing everyday activities difficult.

A woman is working with a physiotherapist. (Image: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images)

Exercise and Muscle Function

Exercise enhances muscle tissue performance by stimulating blood flow to your tissues. When you move your body, you increase your circulation, sending oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to your tissues. This helps to keep your muscles healthy and functioning at their best. Also, if you engage in resistance training, you are working to strengthen your muscles. This is accomplished by adding tension to your muscles, causing them to work harder to lift a weight or pull a resistance band. As a result, tiny tears in your muscle fibers are created. When your body repairs these tears, you become stronger. A lack of exercise reduces your strength, which can have tension-inducing effects.

Muscle Weakness

When your muscles become weakened due to inactivity, you are more likely to experience muscle soreness from everyday activity. This includes anything from lifting a box to climbing your stairs. This soreness can then develop into muscle tension that causes your muscles to shorten. Eventually, muscle shortening can lead to the development of what are known as "trigger points" -- tight knots of muscle tissues known medically as a contracture. These knots may require physical manipulation to reduce muscle tension and relieve knots.

Lactic Acid Buildup

Failure to get enough oxygen to your muscle tissues from lack of exercise can create muscle soreness. When your tissues do not get enough oxygen, lactic acid is created for use instead. Too much lactic acid in your tissues also causes trigger points to form and is associated with increased muscle tension.


If you experience muscle tension from lack of exercise, it's important not to jump back into exercise aggressively. While you should incorporate exercise into your everyday routine to reduce soreness, you should slowly add low-impact exercises like walking or bicycling for short bursts of time into your routine. When you experience muscle soreness and deconditioning from lack of exercise, you are more at risk for injuries like sprains and fractures. If you are unsure of how to resume exercising, see your physician who can offer advice on returning to exercise.

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