We’re always told to stay active and get regular exercise. But whether you’re training for a competition or feeling extra motivated, more isn’t always better.
Those who know me personally would have heard me say “less is more” when it comes to optimal health and performance. Yes, it’s important to be active, but how many hours do you really need?
With the energy mismatch created my modern diets excessively high in carbohydrate and overly processed foods its easy to understand why many people think they have to exercise upwards of 15 to 20 hours per week to lose or maintain a healthy weight.
Having days of low activity or rest allows the body to recover and repair, both physically and mentally. It’s a critical part of progress, regardless of your fitness level or sport. Failing to rest appropriately can result in overtraining or burnout which basically is the opposite of what you want to achieve.
Here are some of the benefits of taking rest days:
Contrary to popular belief, a rest day isn’t about being lazy on the couch. But it can be, in part. It’s during this time that the beneficial effects of exercise take place. When you’re resting, you’re allowing the body to make physiological adaptions.
Your muscles store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen. During physical activity, your body breaks down glycogen into glucose to fuel your workout.
Rest gives your body time to replenish these energy stores before your next workout or competitive event.
Prevents muscular fatigue
Rest is necessary for avoiding exercise-induced fatigue. As mentioned before, exercise depletes your muscles’ glycogen stores. If these stores aren’t replaced, you’ll experience muscle fatigue and soreness.
Your muscles need glycogen to function, even when you’re not working out. By getting adequate rest, you’ll prevent fatigue by letting your glycogen stores to be replenished.
Reduced risk of injury
Regular rest is essential for staying safe during exercise. When your body is overworked, you’ll be more likely to fall out of form, drop a weight, take a wrong step or make a poor decision.
Overtraining also exposes your muscles to repetitive stress and strain over time. This increases the risk of overuse injuries, forcing you to take more rest days than planned. This ultimately leads to lost training time and in turn a potential failure in progression.
Improved physical performance
When you don’t get enough rest, it can be hard to do your normal routine, let alone challenge yourself.
Even if you push yourself, overtraining decreases your performance. You may experience reduced strength and endurance, slower reaction times, and poor agility.
If this is not addressed over time, this reduced output may become the new performance standard as the athlete may think they have hit a training plateau and begin to seek an additional challenge to continue progression, when actually a slight reduction in training load may be all that is required.
Rest has the opposite effect. It can increase energy levels and prevent overall fatigue, which prepares the body for more consistent and successful workouts, which can produce optimal mental and physical performance outcomes.
Improved sleep quality
While regular exercise can improve your sleep, taking rest days is also helpful.
Physical activity increases energy-boosting hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Constant exercise, however, overproduces these hormones. You’ll have a hard time getting quality sleep, which only adds to fatigue and exhaustion and resulting in reduced mental and physical performance.
Rest can help you get better sleep by letting your hormones return to within a normal, balanced state.
The take away
Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned athlete, regular rest and recovery is crucial to maintain optimal health and performance.
The best way to make the most out of your rest days is to conduct low impact activities, such as bodyweight movement pattern training, biking, walking or yoga. These activities will help you stay active while letting your body recover and recharge.
One thought on “Why it’s important to have rest days?”
I’m really great at burnout and I’d need to read posts like this much more often. Thanks for this well written reminder. 🙂