If you’re trying to lose weight before your class reunion, run a faster 10k, or just get healthier, it may be tempting to work out hard every day. But your body needs rest just as much as it needs exercise, says Rich Green, a physical therapist and Director of Physical and Hand Therapy at DMOS Orthopaedic Center. To avoid illness and injury and get the results you want, it’s important to build rest days into your fitness routine.
Why do I need rest days?
Working out, especially resistance training, stresses your body’s systems and causes microscopic tears in your muscles. Rest days help your muscles, nerves, bones, and all of your systems rebuild and recover. Rest days also help you avoid injury, stay physically and mentally strong, and improve your performance.
What is a rest day and how do I incorporate rest days into my routine?
A rest day means a break from your regular fitness routine. Rest days can involve a break in the type of exercise, the intensity of exercise, or both. However, in most instances resting shouldn’t mean channel surfing on the couch all day. Although you shouldn’t do intense workouts every day, your body does need some type of physical activity every day, Green said, even if it’s just a light walk
If you’re a beginning runner, you should run only every other day, Green said. On rest days try an exercise that uses different muscle groups such as biking, swimming, yoga, or walking. Even seasoned runners should alternate heavy running days with lighter running days, and plan to take the occasional day off.
For weight training, be sure to give the body 48 hours to rest before working the same muscle group again. If you work your upper body on Monday, for instance, wait until Wednesday to work your upper body again. Depending on the intensity level of your workout, your fitness level, and your age, sometimes you may need to wait 72to96 hours to train the same muscle group again.
How do I know if I’m not giving myself enough rest?
If you’re working out too much and not giving yourself enough rest, you may find that you’re insatiably thirsty or exhausted, your muscles are still sore three days after a workout, or you’re injuring yourself or becoming sick more often. Failing to rest enough between intense workouts is also referred to as overtraining.
In addition to rest days between intense workouts, your body also needs water, food, and six to eight hours of sleep per night
Overall, listen to your body to determine how much rest you need, Green said. Exercise should make you feel better, not worse. So if you’re experiencing intense soreness, exhaustion, or other symptoms of overtraining, it may be time to back off.