Why rest days are so important

Updated: Mar 12, 2021

We all know that taking part in regular exercise and leading an active lifestyle is important for our mental and physical health. It is understandable why it can be tempting to skip rest days, especially if you are in a good exercise routine, progressing well and feeling all the benefits exercise can bring, but their importance shouldn’t be underestimated.

Rest days should be programmed into every exercise plan, no matter whether you are a professional athlete or a regular gym goer – rest days help to bring the balance necessary for sustainable progress. Rest days allow for your body to repair and your mind to recover and ensure that the many benefits of exercise are realised and not overshadowed by injury and fatigue. Below are some of the main benefits that rest days can bring.

5 Benefits to Rest Days

#1 Allows for Repair and Recovery

During rest, muscles repair and growth takes place, so it is during this time that the benefits of exercise take place and muscles become stronger.

Exercise depletes glycogen stores, which are required for your muscles to function. When you rest, the energy stores in your body are given time to recover which helps prevent muscle fatigue.

#2 Maintains Homeostasis

Exercise releases stress hormones, including cortisol, and too much of this hormone can actually negatively impact your progress, even reversing some of the beneficial effects of exercise. Resting ensures your body has the time it needs to keep the balance of your hormones at their natural levels. This also helps you rest better as overproduction of these hormones can negatively impact your sleep.

Over training can also negatively impact your central nervous system and cause constant tiredness so resting ensures the balance remains and your body and mind are able to function to their best ability.

#3 Lowers Risk of Injury

Resting to allow repair and recovery of your muscles to take place will, in turn, help to reduce the risk of injury as you will have the mental and physical strength and energy required to train at your best. Resting also helps reduce the risk of injuries associated with overuse and repetitive strain which could lead to longer periods of time where you are unable to exercise.

#4 Improves Performance

Rest will ensure your energy levels are higher and your mind and body are not fatigued, which could cause poor performance and increase injury risk. If you aren’t tired and your muscles are less sore and fatigued you will be more likely to have the energy needed to really perform hard in your workouts and the motivation to get you doing your workout in the first place.

#5 Builds Sustainable Habits

If your energy levels remain high through rest, this helps with motivation, which also helps to build a sustainable exercise habit. Having increased motivation ensures you will be more likely to stick to your plan for exercise and rest and be able to build it into your life.

Trying to exercise every day is unrealistic, not just unsustainable, so rest days allow for that flexibility in your exercise plan that life sometimes requires.

Rest Day Activities

Rest days are about recovery for your mind and body but it does not mean that you have to just spend the day on the sofa watching Netflix or reading your favourite book – although I definitely do have days where I enjoy doing just that! Rest days can also incorporate active recovery which can be any form of gentle exercise. This can be beneficial to recovery as it can increase blood flow and help muscles recover.

Ideas for Active Recovery

  • Gentle walks in nature (also good for the mind)

  • Easy cycle ride

  • Swimming

  • Mobility work – stretching and gentle yoga.

  • Myofascial release/massage

Ideas for Total Rest Days

  • Take a bath

  • Read a book

  • Listen to music or a podcast

  • Mindfulness and meditation

  • Sleep - enough good quality sleep is so important for recovery. Keep an eye out of a blog post I’ve been writing with more details on this – coming to you on World Sleep Day on 12th March.

The amount of rest each person needs to repair and recover does vary depending on the intensity of your workouts, your fitness levels, age and genetics, but the one common factor is that rest days are important for each and every one of us. It is really important to listen to your body and do what feels right for you.

Remember, it is OK to take a day off if you’re not feeling up to it – be flexible with your routine, take time for your mind and body to rest and you will certainly see the benefits.

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