In an industry filled with conflicting advice and opinions, there is one area that most fitness experts agree on, and that is the importance of rest and recovery when exercising.
Rest days are an important part of the body’s recovery process, injury prevention, and overall physical and mental health. How often you take a rest day will depend on the level of continued stress you place on the body during exercise.
When you put stress on a targeted muscle you create micro-tears in your muscle fibers. The muscles need to repair themselves and as they do, they get stronger, which results in muscle growth. This growth process occurs during periods of rest and especially during sleep.
Another area of importance is the body’s need to replenish energy stores. Your body needs energy to power through a workout and the most readily available source of energy is muscle glycogen. This fuel source needs to be replaced prior to completing another intense core workout.
I briefly touched above on the benefits a rest day has on your mental health. Pushing your body to its peak on a regular basis requires both physical and mental toughness and stamina. Not only is it stressful to your body but it can really fatigue your brain as well. Switching off from your daily exercise routine gives you a psychological break from exercise and helps your mind relax, allowing it to recover, repair, and strengthen along with your muscles.
When it comes to knowing when you need to take a rest day, always listen to your body. The signs are always there:
Finally, when it comes to exercise, sometimes less is more. Do not fall into the trap of believing that rest days are for lazy people or you need to train every day to get better results. Overtraining is the number one cause of injuries for most fitness enthusiasts. Be smart or you will eventually be forced to take a rest day to recover from serious injuries.
Further reading: What impact does stress and worry have on the core?