Discover the Importance of Keeping a Day Off Your Exercise Routine

If you think that resting from your workouts will hurt you, learn the benefits of giving yourself a day off from your routine. You will prevent injuries and improve your overall performance this way.
Discover the Importance of Keeping a Day Off Your Exercise Routine

Written by Editorial Team

Last update: 29 October, 2022

After a sedentary season, the first few days of training require a lot of motivation and energy. However, a few weeks later, when the body gets used to it, and we’ve been consistent, we may feel the need to follow our exercise routine on a daily basis. This is when we must set aside a day off our exercise routine.

Physical activity improves our health in many ways. Not only does it regulate fat levels and help to keep us in shape, it also strengthens the body against disease, reduces the chances of suffering from depression and stress, and gives a sense of energy and vitality, among many other benefits.

What happens in the body when you don’t rest?

If we don’t keep a day off in the exercise routine, it’s likely that the body doesn’t get enough rest. What would happen, then? The following are some of the consequences:

  • You become more vulnerable to injury due to muscle fatigue that’s associated with very short recovery times.
  • Persistent aches and pains appear, indicating that the body hasn’t fully recovered from its previous workouts.
  • There’s a feeling of chronic fatigue, which is a sign that it’s necessary to rest.
  • We may notice emotional changes and a lack of motivation due to the hormonal imbalance of serotonin and cortisol that occurs when there’s sustained physical exhaustion.
  • We suffer sleep problems due to the same high levels of cortisol and adrenaline.

These symptoms are also part of the overtraining syndrome, a consequence of exercise programs that don’t include muscle regeneration times.

day off exercise routine
The overload caused by the lack of rest in exercise increases a person’s risk of injury.

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What are the benefits of a day off from your exercise routine?

Leaving a day off in your exercise routine allows us to take advantage of some benefits that are key to not getting injured. Similarly, our recovery becomes more evident, especially if we’re preparing for a specific goal, such as a specific race.

You give time for your body to recover and adaptat

When you exercise and work muscle strength, microscopic tears occur in muscle tissues. During rest periods, the muscles repair, grow, and become stronger.

Adaptation happens when your body adapts to the demands of the sport you are doing; it increases its vital power and its aerobic and responsive capacity. However, for this to happen, training should alternate periods of work with other breaks.

You reduce your risk of injury

Thanks to the body strengthening that occurs on your days off, you become less prone to injury during exercise routines. This is very important if you don’t want to have any long-term complications.

You avoid muscle fatigue

Muscle fatigue occurs when phosphocreatine and glycogen levels are depleted. The latter is needed by the muscles to function, even when we’re not exercising. If the body’s reserves aren’t replaced, you experience soreness.

If you get enough rest, however, you will avoid fatigue by allowing glycogen and phosphates, as well as energy and fuel reserves, to be replenished. This is evidenced by an article published in Apunts. Medicina de l’Esport .

So, should I stop exercising one day a week?

This isn’t strictly necessary. During breaks, you can also perform moderate-intensity or low-impact exercise, so you’ll be promoting active muscle rest. Here are some ideas:

  • Hiking and walking: Walking helps you strengthen your breathing muscles and improve your ability to deliver oxygen to your lungs.
  • Dancing: Dancing works coordination, pumps blood, and burns calories.
  • Yoga: Yoga improves body awareness, breathing, and flexibility.
  • Bicycling: If you do it casually and without great effort (climbing hills or slopes, for example), it will help you strengthen your knees and get you some extra cardiovascular exercise.

Like this article? You may also like to read: Exercise and Heart Disease: What Should You Take Into Account?

Should I only have one day off a week in my exercise routine?

Depending on your physical condition, experience, and the type of exercise you perform, you will require a different number of days off in your exercise routine.

If, for example, you perform only low-impact activities, such as those mentioned above (yoga, dancing, walking), it’s safe to exercise every day. However, it’s best to consult your doctor to evaluate your specific conditions.

If you practice intense cardio activities, such as running, and you’re just starting out, it’s best to train only three days a week with active rest days in between. When your goal is weight loss, you should rest 2 or 3 days a week.

When it comes to weightlifting, people with less experience require more rest days. Beginners only fully recover after two consecutive days of rest, and their training should consist of a routine of 2 or 3 workouts a week.

biking for fun during your day off exercise routine
Biking without effort or hills is an excellent option for resting actively.

Other tips for recovering in the best way

On your day off, you will spend fewer calories, so it’s important that you pay attention to the feeling of satiety. It’s also normal to feel less hungry.

However, you should still make sure to eat enough protein. This will help with your muscle recovery. Also, make sure to eat complex carbohydrates to restore your body’s glycogen levels if you come from strenuous activities. At the same time, always drink enough water.

Get plenty of sleep. These days off will allow you to rest better at night and, therefore, exercise with more power in the following days. The mind must also rest, so different activities are suggested (watching a movie, going for a walk, or visiting friends or family).

Forget the idea that resting from your workouts will cause you to lose the muscle tone or endurance you have achieved. Contrary to what people tend to assume, keep in mind that giving yourself a day off from your exercise routine will bring you closer to achieving your goals.

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  • Bompa, T. Periodización del entrenamiento deportivo. Barcelona: Paidotribo; 2000.
  • González-Boto R, Molinero O, Martínez-García R, de Andrade A, Márquez S. La adaptación en el deporte y su relación con el sobreentrenamiento. CPD [Internet]. 1 de enero de 2006; Vol. 6(1). Disponible en: https://revistas.um.es/cpd/article/view/112591
  • Manno, R.  Fundamentos del entrenamiento deportivo. Barcelona: Editorial Paidotribo; 1996.
  • Suay, Ferrán, and A. Sanchís Salvador. “Marcadores hormonales del síndrome de sobreentrenamiento.” Revista de Psicología del deporte 6.1 (2007).
  • Pérez-Guisado, Joaquín. “Rendimiento deportivo: glucógeno muscular y consumo proteico.” Apunts. Medicina de l’Esport 43.159 (2008): 142-152.