While the title of this post may be a smidge – a snore??- too literal, I tend to take rest days very seriously. For many of us, taking time off isn’t something that we’re naturally good at or comfortable with. After all that effort at the gym – and all of the natural feel good hormones we’ve come to expect post-workout! – rest days can be downright challenging. Then again, some folks love rest days and dread active ones. Well, gym-loathers and couch lovers can rejoice, because there is a whole slew of info out there that scientifically proves why rest days are so important. In this post, I’ve outlined some of the top reasons that rest days play a key role in your fitness routine.
Amazingly enough, muscles aren’t built at the gym. They’re actually built after the gym, once you refuel and rest. That’s when protein synthesis – a metabolic function responsible for muscle repair and creation – kicks in and goes to work, building you up stronger, hardier muscles.
GROWTH HORMONE PRODUCTION
Sleeping boosts your body’s production of human growth hormone. That means that while you’re catching Zzzs you’re also healing your body and building muscles simultaneously. Basically when you snooze, you’re a superhero. But with great power comes great responsibility – like making sure you get 7-8 hours of shut eye per night to keep your hormones in check and your body well rested.
We tell ourselves after the fact that 30-60 minutes of cardio or weights is no big deal but our bodies are tired! When we push ourselves too hard or too far too fast we risk hitting a progress plateau due to exhaustion. Plain old muscle fatigue can keep us from getting stronger, no matter how much time we clock in at the gym. Why? You guessed it: those hours at the gym are only as useful as the time each muscle group has to rest and recover. Aim for at least 48 hours between body part for weight training (3-4 days apart is even more optimal) and make sure that while you’re resting you’re also rehydrating and refueling properly.
Of course, all of the above are impacted above by your exercise frequency, your exercise intensity and the duration of your exercises. (In other words, that casual stroll you took cappuccino in hand, while delightful, “probably” isn’t rest-worthy!) Even so, it’s clear that the importance of rest days can’t be underestimated. From repairing and building strong muscles to preventing the dreaded workout plateau, rest days can truly be the best day when it comes to your overall health.
Do you have any gentle forms of movement that you enjoy on your day(s) off? I’d love to hear how you take time away from more intense exercise/the gym!