A rest day is just as important as an exercise day. Without rest, your body cannot recover, and your muscles will not grow. And rest helps you mentally recover and reduce injury, so you are more likely to stick with your fitness program.
A rest day is a day taken from exercise in which you allow your body to recover. The type of rest you choose can be active or passive, and will contribute to your overall wellbeing. At the same time, rest helps you reach your goals quicker.
- A passive rest day takes place when you do no physical exercise. Take the day to spend time with family, read or enjoy other activities that you normally do not have time for. Taking a bath can help you enjoy this day off even more.
- An active rest day includes activities that allow your muscles time to rest and repair. The activity you choose can include a stretching routine, a relaxing walk or a massage to encourage circulation and muscle repair.
The Benefits of a Rest Day
Each time you exercise, your muscles, tendons and ligaments endure stress. Microscopic tears in the muscle tissue are a natural result of working out. At the same time, glycogen depletion takes place as your body uses stored glycogen for fuel. But no need to worry because a rest day allows your body time for recovery.
During a recovery day, your body will repair the microtears, which is how muscles grow and get stronger. When at rest, your body sends blood that is rich in oxygen and nutrients to help repair the muscles, while fibroblasts repair and strengthen connective tissue. The result is a stronger and sometimes larger muscle.
Recovery also allows your body to replenish glycogen stores, prevent muscle fatigue and enjoy more restful sleep, which are all necessary for everyday health and mental wellness. Your body also needs rest to help reduce your chance for injury.
Without recovery, the body becomes susceptible to overtraining, which leads to repetition injuries and muscle strains. When the body becomes mentally and physically fatigued, you are more prone to burnout. Taking rest days will allow you to reduce injuries while leading to improved performance.
How to Incorporate a Rest Day
Incorporating a rest day is necessary for health and balance, and how often you rest depends upon your exercise. For example, beginners will see the most improvement from strength training if you take one day off after each whole-body workout. Those who run or jog might begin with only three workouts per week, while using the other four days for a mixture of active and passive rest. If walking is your exercise, one rest day a week might suffice.
Find your rest day by paying attention to your body and doing what feels right. You know you need a rest day if you experience the following:
- Fatigue or extreme exhaustion
- Muscle or joint pain that is beyond sore muscles
- Problems sleeping
- Reduced exercise performance or lack of progress
Listen to your body and rest when you need it. Keep a journal to help you keep track of your training, and if you really don’t like taking a day off, make your rest day fun with a yoga class or light bike ride. Your body and mind will thank you with improved health and performance.