Do you actually need a rest day in your workout routine? We asked an expert

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photo by Work For Your Beer
A version of this story originally appeared on the Work For Your Beer blogWork For Your Beer is the all-inclusive guide to beer fitness in Charlotte, NC. View their calendar for a complete directory of everywhere you can work out and drink beer in the Queen City.
When you’re setting fitness goals for yourself, you may think that you should plan to exercise daily to achieve them. But what about rest days? Should they be a part of your fitness routine? If so, why and how often?

We’ve struggled with these same questions, so we reached out to an expert to find out the answer once and for all.

​We spoke with Debra Myhr (a PT, DPT, MOTR, and ATC at OrthoCarolina) to ask her all of our questions about rest days and whether they matter when it comes to crushing our fitness goals. Here’s what she had to say.

Ideally, How Many Days Per Week Should You Work Out?

This seemed like the logical question to start with, before we actually got to talking about rest days: how often should you really be working out, to see the best results? “It should range from 5-6 days per week, depending on your fitness level and your goals for your fitness journey,” Debra told us.

As far as the split between cardio and strength training workouts, she said they should ideally be split up evenly.

“It is best to do three days a week of weight training and three days of cardio a week,” she explained. “The key is to remember that each body region you workout needs at least 24-48 hours of rest following your workout.”

Do You Actually Need to Schedule a Rest Day as Part of Your Fitness Routine?

Short answer: yes.

“Rest days are important to prevent overuse injuries, and to allow for muscles and body to recover from the exercise,” Debra explained. “You are creating small tears in the muscles as you work them, so it is important to give them rest. It also allows the immune system to recharge, since it is being taxed to repair your body from the stress of physical activity.”

How Often Should You Schedule a Rest Day?

According to Debra, that depends on your current fitness level. “If you are new to exercise, you should have about two days of rest within the week,” she said. “If you are a more experienced athlete and are more aware of your body, you can get by with just one day of rest per week.”

What Activities Should (and Shouldn’t) You Partake In During a Rest Day?

We’ve established that rest days are crucial for giving your body time to recover after your workouts. But what are you actually supposed to do on a rest day (and what should you definitely not do)? Debra has a few ideas.

To be clear: the WORST thing you can do on your rest day is absolutely nothing. You want to aim for light, gentle movements.

“Avoid strenuous activities which would put more stress on the body. Rest days can consist of normal activities such as walking, light cardio, etc. since they do not stress the muscles that need the most rest. These activities also help lactic acid to move out of the muscles,” Debra said. “​Stretching is also a great exercise option for rest days, because most people forget to do that throughout the week during their normal workout routine.”

Aside from walking, light cardio, and stretching, Debra recommends focusing on some other non-fitness-based activities during your rest day.

“Rest days are great days to meal prep and to plan your meals for the week, in order to have proper nutrition for your health and fitness goals,” she said. “​Sleep is also an important aspect of recovery because it allows the body time to repair and heal in a non stressed environment.”

Photo: Courtesy of Work For Your Beer

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