This Is Why You Need Exercise Rest Days

This is Why You Need Exercise Rest Days

This post is by OYS writer Melissa. You can read more about Melissa here and see all of her other posts here. Check out Melissa’s blog Nutrition and Wellness for Life. She offers wellness consultation services that focus on helping you eat better and exercise more.  She also has a FB page!!


Exercising regularly is a fantastic goal to have to improve your health and fitness, but are you giving yourself rest days? Exercise rest days are so important to build into your workout schedule. Just know that a rest day does not have to mean you sit on the couch watching Netflix all day. You can still be active on rest days.

When you exercise, you are working your body hard. This work leads to a healthy weight, improved cardiovascular endurance, and better overall general health. But your body also needs time to recover from this work.

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When you strength train, you are actually making little tears in your muscles. After the workout session, they need fuel in the form of food and rest time for those muscles to repair themselves before the next workout. It’s best to alternate strength training days with cardio days. You can strength train two days in a row, as long as you focus on different areas of your body. So if on one day you train your lower body, the next you should train your upper body. If on one day you train your glutes and biceps, the next you should train your quads and triceps. If any area feels sore from a past workout, you probably should avoid training it until that soreness is gone.

When you run, your leg bones take a beating. That pounding is good for your bones, because it can help prevent osteoporosis, but they also need time to rest. If not, you will end up with aches and soreness that make it difficult to run through. You could also cause long-term joint damage that could require surgery down the road.

Aside from the muscles and bones needing recovery, your whole body needs it too. If you work out hard every single day, you are going to be exhausted. This will eventually lead to burnout, and this could mean you will stop exercising altogether. That is not what we want!

Exercising every day is totally fine, as long as you are cross training. This means that you are not doing the same exercise every single day. If you do that, you are setting yourself up for overuse injuries. You will be constantly focusing on the same body parts and muscles, which means those areas will get weak and tired, leading to a greater chance of a fall, twist, sprain, or tear. Remember, once you get an injury, you may have to stop exercising until it heals, so be very careful and try to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Another thing that can happen is a plateau. If you are trying to lose weight, you may stop seeing the pounds come off if you keep doing the same exercise every day. Or if you are trying to tone up a particular area, you may stop seeing the improvements you are looking for. Your body will get used to the movements and just go through the motions. There won’t be a challenge anymore. So if you choose to exercise every day, make sure you change up what you are doing so that you aren’t ever doing the same activity two days in a row. Try to throw in a rest day every now and then, or at least make one day a very low-intensity activity, like walking or yoga.

So how many rest days do you need? That is an individual question that can only be answered based on your fitness and/or weight loss goals, your lifestyle, and your schedule. My recommendation would be one or two rest days per week. I would make one of those rest days an active rest day, where you still do some type of light physical activity. But you have to decide what works for you.

Here is a sample workout plan for one week.

Monday – 45 minutes elliptical

Tuesday – strength train lower body

Wednesday – rest day, but take a 30 minute walk at some point in the day (can be broken up into 2 15 minute walks)

Thursday – 20 minutes cycling, strength train upper body

Friday – 30 minutes running

Saturday – 1 hour gym class (mix of cardio and strength training)

Sunday – rest day

Do you get rest days? What do yours look like?

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