Should I Take Rest Days?

Nicholas Gregory

While the focus of many exercise programs includes the frequency, intensity, and format; an equally important part of an effective and sustainable exercise routine is the inclusion of built-in rest days! This allows your body and mind to relax and recover from exercise. Rest days can look different depending on your fitness level, but the benefits should not be overlooked!

Why are rest days important?

Exercise, at its core, is a form of stress. It requires the body to work hard and disrupts its normal balance. This disruption of normal systems is how muscles get stronger, and how you are able to run farther, lift heavier, and zumba funkier! Exercise is a positive form of stress because once the exercise is stopped, the body is able to recover, return to its state of balance, and rebuild. If the body is not given adequate time to recover between exercise sessions, this stress can start to have negative impacts!

When do I know I need a rest day?

Our bodies are great at giving feedback, we just have to listen to them! Things, such as overly sore muscles, fatigue, frequent illness, and restlessness, can be signs that you need a rest day! It’s not uncommon to experience things like sore muscles or fatigue after a tough workout. When these feelings take a long time to resolve, or you notice that you are not feeling recovered by your next workout, it may be a good time to take a rest day!

How often should I take a rest day?

For those new to exercise, it is a good idea to follow a “two on, one off” approach. This means you would exercise two days in a row, and then take a rest day on the third day. Others might prefer one on, one off or three on, one off. This can be adjusted based on your current schedule and routine, and what feels good for your body. Find what days you prefer to exercise, listen to its feedback, and build in your rest days accordingly. 

What does a rest day look like?

Although simply resting and allowing your body and mind to recover is a perfect format for a rest day (I mean, who wouldn’t want a day where you can sit on the couch and relax?,) you can also do things that fall under the category of “active recovery.” Active recovery includes things like foam rolling, stretching, and walking. These activities can get the blood flowing and allow your body to recover and feel rejuvenated for your next day’s workout. It is important that any active recovery is approached with a low intensity relative to that of your normal exercise. Active recovery should not be seen as a workout and should not include over-exertion. Consider a walk and talk with friends or a calm stretching session at home!

Don’t be afraid to rest! More is not always better, and finding balance in your exercise (just like everything else in life) is so important. Let us know in the comments below your favorite rest day activities!