An Argument for Rest Days

How a brief break from exercise can actually increase athletic performance

You’ve likely heard time and again the importance of regular exercise and the recommendations to get moving most days of the week. 

However, rest is equally important to a healthy, strong body.

During rest, the body is able to restore essential nutrients, such as glycogen and amino acids, which are needed for muscle recovery and energy. 

Rest allows the body to regenerate and re-establish homeostasis, which can decrease the risk of injuries.

Rest also allows bone to remodel after activities.

With adequate rest and recovery, the body can adapt to changes the body sustains from exercise, and people can actually perform better.

Feeling easily rundown? Does a workout that was once easy now leave you totally drained? You could be overtraining.


An Rx for More R&R Days
 

Adequate hydration, nutrition, physical rest and sleep are important in the rest and recovery process, as the body needs to adequately replenish fluids, glycogen and protein to help with muscle repair.

Vigorous activities more than five days a week can lead to injury, so people should have at least one to two days of rest per week.

On the other hand, some people may be able to exercise every day if they use a variety of exercises that have different impact stresses on the body and use different muscles (i.e., running versus swimming).

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that most people ages 18-65 get 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activities five days per week, or 20 minutes of vigorous activities three days per week.

Strength training is also recommended at least two days a week.

Older adults are encouraged to do flexibility exercises two days a week for at least 10 minutes at a time.

Some people may gain some health benefits from exercising only one to two days per week (we often refer to these people as “weekend warriors”), but this is not usually recommended because of the risk of injury and heart problems in those who are not active on a regular basis and then engage in exercise they are not used to doing.


Signs It’s Time to Slow Down
 

Failing to give your body enough rest can lead to overtraining.

A good way to unwind during an 'active recovery' day is with a low-impact activity like yoga.

Symptoms of overtraining include:

  • Decreased sports performance.
  • Easy fatigability and weakness.
  • Sleeping disorders.
  • Emotional instability.
  • Headaches.
  • Gastrointestinal problems.
  • Increased incidence of acute and overuse injuries.
  • Frequent illnesses.

What is “active recovery” days versus “rest” days?

As mentioned above, people may be able to work out seven days a week, but should vary the intensity of the exercise.

This way, the body can still recover without having to be totally shut down.

For instance, an “active recovery day” could be yoga after doing an intense workout the day before, versus a “rest day,” which is complete physical rest.

Rest and recovery are important but some people are able to adapt and adjust their workouts so they are able to exercise every day.

If you are just starting to exercise or increasing the intensity of your workouts, be careful not to overload your body and have at least one day of rest or active recovery per week.

If you notice you are easily fatigued with activities that had not been difficult before, re-evaluate your exercise and diet regimen, and consider cross-training.

If you continue to have fatigue or other symptoms of overtraining, contact your primary care physician.

 

 

Published on: July 31, 2018