Whether you’re training for something or feeling extra motivated, exercising more isn’t necessarily better for you. Staying fit and healthy may be one of your top priorities at the moment, but knowing when to have a rest day goes hand-in-hand with working out. In this guide, we’ll take you through the importance of rest days and how to structure them.
Why Are Rest Days Important?
The importance of rest days shouldn’t be overlooked when you start working out and creating an exercise regime. Although exercise is beneficial for mental, physical and general health, rest days are just as important.
When Should You Have A Rest Day?
Ultimately, the number of rest days you have a week depends on the type of exercise and workouts that you do. This includes:
- Your training regime and cycle – you may only exercise once or twice a week, which already incorporates rest day periods, but if you train five days a week, it’s beneficial to have one in between.
- The intensity of the training/workout – the more intense the exercise, the more rest you should have between workout days.
- Your level of fitness and how long you’ve been training – those who are new to exercise may find they need more rest days than those who have been training for years.
- The type of workout – for example, whether you’re doing full-body workouts or focusing on different muscle groups.
Benefits of Rest Days
Here are some of the most important benefits of having a rest day:
Improves Overall Performance
Just like we’re not able to mentally give 100% when we’re tired, we cannot expect our bodies to perform 100% without adequate rest. Even if you can push yourself, you may find your reaction times are slower, and your endurance is reduced.
Prevents Muscle Fatigue
Muscles store carbohydrates that your body converts into glycogen to function in your everyday life and to fuel your workout. As we workout, this is depleted, and your body needs the time to replenish those levels to avoid muscle fatigue and soreness.
Allows Your Body Time to Recover
Many people experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) – the stiffness and pain you feel the next day after exercising – particularly after a high-intensity workout. This is because a heavy activity can create microscopic tears that need to heal, and, in doing so, are allowed the time to grow.
Lessens the Risk of Injury While Exercising
If you’re overworked, you may be more likely to make a mistake that could cause you to lose form, make a wrong movement or lose your grip on equipment. This in turn increases your risk of injury. Having a rest day can help improve your overall performance and help you stay safe during your exercise.
Creates A Sense of Routine
Most people know that exercising can help improve your sleep, but constant exercising can result in the overproduction of energy-boosting hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. This could result in difficulty getting quality sleep followed by feelings of exhaustion and fatigue.
If you have a busy schedule, factoring in a rest day can help you gain a sense of routine, so you know exactly what you have planned; for example, you may opt to do exercise two days on, one day off. That way, you have a weekly plan and a good chance to rest and maintain a healthier sleep pattern.
What to Do on Rest Days
Having a rest day doesn’t mean you have to be completely idle. You can do a few things to create a rest day workout – a more relaxed form of exercise that isn’t too strenuous on your body.
Some ways to maintain the fitness momentum include:
- Doing light cardio such as going for a walk or a light jog.
- Yoga, which not only improves flexibility but also helps you stretch out your muscles.
- Stretching, such as leg swings, arm circles or lunges, can help improve mobility in joints while also waking up muscles.
- Cycling, which is a great low impact alternative to swimming or jogging. But, be cautious if you have done high-intensity leg workouts the day before, as this wouldn’t be giving your muscles time to rest.
The most important thing to remember is a rest day is all about relaxing and recovering. Whatever your fitness level may be, everyone needs to take a rest day to allow your body to recover and repair from the strain of the workout you’ve just put it through. Skipping them could result in overtraining, burnout and even strains or injury in some more extreme circumstances.