Rest Day: Good or Bad?

Those individuals who are intensely interested in establishing and maintaining a strict exercise routine often count their progress through steps taken, minutes exercised and calories burned.  For such an individual it can be a point of pride to maintain a steady exercise program without end, and to avoid at all costs anything that could be considered “rest”.  However, in the grand scheme of things and in the interests of truly getting the most out of one’s workouts, rest is actually an important component of a healthy and beneficial exercise routine.

The Benefit of Rest

An individual’s body is, essentially, a self-healing machine.  When it is incredibly active for any length of time, it needs rest in order to fully recover and heal itself.  Following are some incredibly important reasons why:

● Rest helps to prevent injury.  When it comes to muscles, there is such a thing as overuse.  During routine exercise muscles begin by working in the way they are intended to, but over time they can begin to cope and change how they are working, a symptom of overuse.  Overused muscles are more prone to injury as they are no longer moving as intended.

● Exercise can tear muscles.  Especially when an individual is participating in strength training, muscle fibers tear during exercise.  With rest, the immune system can repair and grow these muscles properly so that the individual benefits from their training.

● A day of rest doesn’t affect overall performance levels.  Generally speaking, progress and performance levels are only affected when an individual fails to exercise for about two weeks.  This means that taking a day of rest after intense physical activity, or even two days of rest, will not set the individual back.

● Failing to rest can adversely affect one’s sleep.  Constant exercise without proper rest can actually make an individual’s body restless and alert all the time, which makes it difficult to get proper sleep, which is critical to one’s overall health and well-being.

● Rest days can prevent the immune system from overheating.  Heavy physical activity can drive the immune system to work constantly on repairing muscles and joints, which can overwhelm it and lead to overheating and injuries.

● Rest can allow for mental recharging.  Exercising takes mental endurance in addition to physical endurance, and a rest day can help the individual maintain their interest in exercise and prevent a burnout from occurring.

Understanding that rest days are good can help an individual set specific exercise goals that allow for these critical times, and still help them to reach their overall fitness goals.