Instagram shots of some seriously fit folks have plenty of people taking their workouts a bit more seriously. While this desire to stay svelte might encourage you to kick your fitness routine into high-gear, it’s easy to take things too far. Working yourself to exhaustion at the gym every day means you’re at risk for over-training, and it can take a toll on your body. Men’s Fitness explains working out too intensely can lead to constant muscle soreness, unquenchable thirst, and an altered resting heart rate. Trust us, looking great isn’t going to matter if you’re too wiped to even don your swim trunks.
As surprising as it might sound, spending a little bit of time away from the weight room or treadmill is one of the best things you can do for your body. You’ll feel less tired overall; plus, regularly taking a day to recover actually does a lot for your health. If you’re feeling run down, a little rest could benefit you in five different ways. So take a break. Your body will thank you.
1. Reduce risk of injury
Performing strenuous workouts every day might get you in shape initially, but you could soon find yourself suffering from some painful problems. Wellbridge explains exercising puts more strain on nearly every part of your body. The article reads, “Our immune system is activated when there are muscle tears or joint strains, but if the body doesn’t come out of continual practice, it doesn’t have the time to catch up and start patching everything back up.” So even if you’re just experiencing some sort of mild strain, continuing to work through the discomfort could lead to a much bigger injury down the road, like stress fractures, according to The Active Times. And those types of serious ailments are going to require a lot more time off than if you had just taken a break every so often.
Even for exercise veterans, a day or two per week might not be enough. If you’re involved in a seasonal sport or activity, longer periods of rest should be a regular part of your routine. Verywell says good training programs incorporate rest periods into an annual cycle where athletes will perform activities that aren’t as intense. Since professionals take some downtime during their offseason, you should, too.
2. Better results
When preparing for a competition, there’s nothing worse than finding your progress has flat-lined. The natural response might be to amp up the intensity of your program, but pushing yourself harder could make your performance suffer even more. Runner’s World says constantly exhausting yourself doesn’t allow your body to adapt to the stress, so you won’t be able to get faster or stronger. Continuing to train without allotting for proper rest means your performance will continue to decline.
The same is true for those seeking to bulk up. One article from Bodybuilding.com highlights the importance of taking days off, because you’ll return to the gym able to handle more weight, reps, and sets. In fact, it’s the rest period that actually makes you stronger. According to Livestrong.com, lifting weights leads to fiber breakdown within your muscles while periods of rest allow those fibers to repair. You won’t see results if you’re constantly breaking down your body.
3. Mood boost
Exercise is great for your physique, but it’s just as good for your mental well-being. WebMD explains how exercise releases chemicals called endorphins, which lead to an overall positive feeling. This explains why many people feel so great after they complete a workout. More isn’t always better, though. Continued periods of intensive exercise will start to have the opposite effect. According to Men’s Health, too much bodily stress leads to an increased production of cortisol, a stress hormone that contributes to irritability.
For some folks, too much training can lead to more severe mental issues. Personal trainer Lee Boyce tells Men’s Fitness some men start to have a distorted view of exercise when they’re overtrained. They start to think of hitting the gym as a challenge or a way to fill an empty space. He also added that poor body image can lead some to think they need to exercise more in order to look better. Even if appearance is one of your motivating factors for working out, make sure you’re being realistic about your goals.
4. Better sleep
Aside from feeling fatigued, overdoing your workouts can have a huge impact on the quality of your sleep. Ultra-marathon runner Dean Karnazes told Fitbit that exercising too much makes your body restless, so it’s difficult to get a solid night of sleep. That’s especially problematic for those interested in bulking up. Bodybuilding.com says sleep increases growth hormones, which are crucial for developing strong muscles.
On a more practical note, taking a day off frees up time to catch a little more shut-eye. If your strenuous gym sessions are cutting into the amount of time you’re spending in bed, it might be time to rethink your training program.
5. Burn more calories
It’s easy to go overboard with exercising if you’re aiming to get lean. Once again, rest plays a vital role. Men’s Health said you’ll only get the results you’re after by combining training and time off. And if you regularly lift weights, you’re already boosting your ability to slim down. Mayo Clinic explains this is because muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue does.
If the thought of doing absolutely nothing is just too agonizing, consider an active rest day. Built Lean explained these days are spent doing something less intense than your usual workout. The key is making sure to keep your effort light, otherwise you’ll fall right back into the over-training cycle.