Why a rest day is just as important as working out

We all exercise with unique goals and motives in mind – whether it’s for weight loss, toning up or mental health -  working out brings with it countless benefits for. But, can there be too much of a good thing?

If you feel guilty and beat yourself up when you skip the gym you’re not alone. But, it turns out having a rest day might actually help you smash your fitness goals.

Permission to hit the snooze button!

Studies has found that back-to-back workouts could be doing more harm than good by limiting your body’s ability to repair and recover. Any trainer will tell you, it’s important to schedule recovery time into your fitness regime. Pushing your body too hard increases the risk of injury, especially if you’re rapidly increasing intensity before your body is ready. From fluid loss to muscle tencsion, any kind of physical activity will impact the body. Resting allows your body to recover and rebuild so you you can get back to your next workout ready and refreshed.

How often should you work out?

There’s no universal set amount that’s right for everyone – all bodies are different. Generally, it comes down to how conditioned your body is to exercise. Someone who regularly works out 4-5 times a week will require less recovery than someone who exercises once or twice.

So when it comes to how much rest you need, it’s really a case of common sense. If you wake up after yesterday’s HIIT workout and can hardly walk, then listen to your body and give your muscles the downtime they need.

But, how do you actually rest?!

Exercise generates endorphins AKA ‘the happy drug’ so it’s understandable if you feel deflated or lethargic on your off days. But, rest days don’t have to mean no movement at all – it could just mean switching up your routine. If you normally run, instead do some gentle weight training where you engage different muscles groups. If you only do weights, change things up with a run or brisk walk. Or better yet, do lower intensity exercise like yoga or a 30 minute stretching session. This will only further enhance your results.

Read on for four reasons to embrace a rest day…

Prevent injury 

The more you push yourself the more you risk injury. Pulling or straining a muscle, or worse a fracture, is especially common when exercise intensity is rapidly increased without proper build-up or training. Runners training for a half marathon or similar goal are particularly prone to this, often resulting in Plantar Fasciitis, which involves small tears and inflammation of the tendons and ligaments of the foot.

Lose more weight 

While it’s tempting to ramp up exercise when your goal is weight loss, you might not be doing your body any favours. Just like depriving yourself puts your body into starvation mode and it starts to store fat, too much exercise can do the same. When you exercise without adequate rest, your body can perceive exercise as a threat and puts protective mechanisms in place to defend against it. You may find your weight loss starts to plateau and even observe weight gain.

You’ll stick to it 

News flash: doing the same thing day in and day out could result in burn out. Too much exercise could see you completely shattered physically and mentally, or just plain bored. It’s important to remember fitness is a lifestyle so there’s no point going hard and fast then burning yourself out.

Get stronger

Weight training creates tiny tears in your muscles, which is why recovery is so important. Like interval training, high intensity mixed with active recovery actually delivers bigger results.