Importance of rest days with exercise

Hannah Marsh

Are you an avid gym goer and fear taking time off?

Whether it’s due to worrying about losing motivation or regressing in the progress made, what some may not realize is that rest days can actually help the fitness process when thinking about achieving physical goals.

“Taking rest days allows your body to properly recover,” said Hollee Mohni, graduate student in diet and exercise. “It will help decrease any fatigue, improve sleep and decrease the chances of injury.”

A lot of injuries come from overuse and over training, which Warren Franke, a professor of kinesiology, described as, “doing too much and not allowing your body time to adapt.”

But why does our body rely on recovery?

“Exercising can cause micro-tears in the muscle tissue,” Mohni explained. “This is typically the soreness you feel after a workout. These tears need to heal. If they don’t, it can decrease performance and result in an ability to achieve new personal records.”

Other symptoms of over-training can include chronic fatigue, altered sleep patterns,decreased appetite, decreased immune system functioning and an elevated resting heart rate.

While the physical benefits of rest days are great, psychologically and emotionally it can be advantageous as well.

“You don’t get burnt out,” Franke said. “We want people to be physically active. We want it to be something they enjoy doing. Psychologically, if you train and train and train, it becomes more of a chore instead of something you enjoy doing.”

Franke explained how rest days don’t have to mean being totally inactive.

“You don’t have to be a couch potato. Actually, you shouldn’t be a couch potato. If you are a runner, go for a walk or just stretch. Do something that uses your muscles in a slightly different way.”

Whether someone is just getting started at the gym or they are training for a competition, rest days should be incorporated into a fitness regimen.

“You don’t have to spend hours and hours at the gym,” Franke encouraged. “More isn’t always better.”