Why Rest Days Are Just As Important As Working Out

When you are just starting on your fitness journey, it can be tough to tell yourself to slow down and take a day or two for rest. But without rest, your body will not perform to its highest capacity and your potential for injury will greatly increase.

During a moderate-to-vigorous intensity workout, your body will undergo a lot of healthy stress. Not only will your heart work harder to pump blood to the muscles you are concentrating on, but your muscles will also develop micro-tears and build up lactic acid. By putting your body under a certain amount of strain, you can build up your strength. In fact, there are a lot of benefits to daily exercise, even if it is just walking.

But where many beginners and even some veterans go wrong is when they skip a rest day and continue their same intense workout routines. Your rest day is there to provide you with several benefits:

  • Allow for muscle recovery: Micro Tears are part of the muscle building process; as they heal, you become stronger. However, without rest, these micro-tears can develop into serious injuries as they cause a good deal of inflammation which only rest can alleviate. With the right amount of rest, you can allow your muscle to heal and stave off future injuries.
  • Alleviate lactic acid and mental fatigue: Research has shown that as lactic acid build up in your muscles, it tells your brain that it should become more tired. By taking a rest day, you can allow the lactic acid to dissipate and continue to have strong workouts which aren’t impaired by a fatigued brain.
  • Rebuild bone density: Your bone density can also take a hit during intense workouts, as the protein sclerostin is more active and can prevent the production of new bone mass. With the right amount of rest, there will be less sclerostin and your bones will be able to recover and fight off stress fractures.
  • Gives time to review current workout load: Sometimes we fall into workout routines and just go through the motions. On your rest days, you can take the time to assess whether or not you are hitting your goals or if you need to make changes to your routine.

So, if you are following a workout routine, you should make sure it always includes time for rest.

Rest days shouldn’t happen just because you are feeling tired that day. Without careful planning, you may find that you take more “rest days” than workout days. By choosing an erratic rest schedule, it is far more likely you will fall out of a regular exercise routine altogether.

To prevent this, you can do several things:

  • Have set rest days to ensure you know when you can rest and when you should push through normal fatigue.
  • Choose an active rest activity such as walking or yoga to help keep you in the routine, but not stressed. Be sure you choose a more meditative type of yoga, like kundalini, which allows long pose positions and gentle movement.
  • Rebuild your workout schedule if you find you need more than 1-2 rest days. While pushing through is important, it is even more important to listen to your body.

Here is a women’s plan that will help you prioritize recover:

And for men:

Fitness beginners may not realize that most veterans plan longer rest periods which can span from several days to weeks.

When you are following an exercise program, there is not always a natural end to the program, so you may need to give yourself a cutoff point. Taking an extended rest period every three months is commonly recommended, as it helps for more in-depth recovery and helps you avoid feeling burn-out on fitness.

This doesn’t mean you should go from daily exercise to nothing. Instead, practicing deloading— where you slowly back off of your workouts—both in duration and weight, is a great way to taper into a longer rest period.

Your body is a machine, and like all machines, it needs maintenance in the form of rest days. So, it is key that you:

  • Make room for at least one rest day a week.
  • Plan your rest deliberately.
  • Choose gentle active resting activities, if any.
  • Add purposeful breaks in-between training cycles.

By doing these things, you can be ready to tackle any workout routine and build the body you have always wanted.

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