Ms. Jennifer Makin 23 Sep 2022

More isn't always better when it comes to workouts. We are told to stay active and get regular exercise, but no one really talks about rest days.

Rest day, when a person takes a break from their regular workout routine, is an integral part of any exercise program. It gives the body a chance to recover and repair as well as help prevent injury. In fact, an effective fitness regimen isn't complete without rest days.

A rest day is a critical part of progress, regardless of your fitness level or sport. Skipping rest days can lead to burnout or overtraining. In short, you must put your feet up every now and again if you want to enjoy sustained progress.

But how many rest days should you take? And what are the benefits of it? More importantly, do you need to spend all day on the sofa with the remote, or are there some other ways to do it?

This article explains the benefits of rest days for health and the issues that can occur if people do not incorporate rest days into their workout routines. It also outlines signs indicating a need for a rest day and how to spend a rest day the right way.

Benefits Of Taking A Break

Like most things in life, exercise is also all about balance. It is excellent that you want to work out more often and harder, but taking some time out is an essential part of any exercise plan. Even professional athletes schedule easy sessions and rest times into their weekly training.

The health benefits of rest days include:

1. Helps You Recover Better

Your muscles experience two sorts of stress when you exercise: metabolic stress, which results from using up the energy stored in each individual muscle cell, and mechanical stress, which results from actual physical damage to the protein structures of your muscles.

During exercise, your body breaks down the body's energy stores (primarily carbohydrates in the form of glycogen) and uses fluids (to produce sweat). A handful of research has shown that the body needs at least a day to fully replace the muscle's storage of carbohydrates. 

Maintaining an adequate store of muscle glycogen is essential for training and maintaining stable blood sugar levels. So, recovery and rest give the body time to replenish these energy stores.

Several studies have found it takes only around one to two hours to replace our fluids lost as sweat during exercise. But even though less time is required to recover our fluids, the body still requires many hours of rest following exercise to maintain hydration due to the continued production of urine.

Apart from metabolic stress, rest also allows recovery from mechanical stress. During rest, cells called fibroblasts repair and built up the muscle tissue. This helps the tissue grow, heal and become stronger.

2. Improves Performance

It can be difficult to carry out your regular tasks, much less challenge yourself when you don't get enough rest. For instance, you could lack the drive to complete an additional rep or mile of exercise.

Overtraining lowers performance even if you push yourself. You might feel less energetic, react slowly, and be less agile.

The opposite is true when you rest. It boosts energy and avoids exhaustion, preparing your body for workouts that are consistently successful.

3. Reduces The Risk Of Fatigue

Exercise depletes your muscles' glycogen levels which leads to muscle fatigue. Rest days provide the muscles a chance to replace their glycogen reserves, which reduces muscle fatigue and gets the muscles ready for the next session.

According to a mountain of research, rest days are also crucial for preventing overtraining syndrome. Overtraining syndrome may result in lower performance and may halt progress. It may also cause sleep loss, depression, weight gain, and fatigue.

4. Prevents Injury

Regular rest days are crucial for safety during working out. When your body is overworked, you'll be more likely to drop weights, fall out of form or take a wrong step.

Overtraining causes your muscles to undergo repetitive strain and stress. This increases the risk of overuse injuries, compelling you to take more rest days than planned.

5. Improves Sleep

Taking rest days can improve your sleep, much like regular exercise.

Consistently exercising increases cortisol and adrenaline, the energy-boosting hormones, in the body. During regular workouts, the body goes on an overdrive to produce the hormones. This makes falling asleep hard, worsening your exhaustion and fatigue.

On the other hand, rest days support a night of healthy sleep by letting your hormones reach their normal levels.

6. Helps You Build Long-Term Habits

Rest days serve to loosen up your schedule so that you may plan your workouts around your life rather than the other way around. Having that flexibility can also help your workout routine be more enduring.

For instance, if you can't work out one day, you can substitute a rest day instead, which will allow you to finish your workout later in the week without jeopardizing your training. This aids in the development of lifelong, wholesome behaviors.

Risk Of No Rest Days

The body and mind are constantly put under stress during exercise. Daily exercise without a day of rest can wear you out physically and mentally.

According to American Council on Exercise, or ACE, depriving the body of rest might cause the muscles' glycogen stores to run low. Because of this depletion, the body may start using proteins as fuel, which reduces the amount of protein available to support muscle growth and repair.

Muscles, joints, and other significant structures do not have enough time to restore themselves without a rest day. While training, people may also experience mental fatigue and become more prone to errors. Without a day of rest, pushing through will eventually result in harm.

How Frequently Should You Take A Rest Day?

There is no specific amount of rest days you should take, and the frequency largely relies on your goals, training program, biological factors, and current level of fitness. However, more recovery time is required after more strenuous activities, like HIIT.

ACE recommends at least one rest day every seven to ten days of exercise, but because it's individualized, it's crucial to pay attention to both your body and your brain.

How to Spend A Rest Day The Right Way

The ideal rest day looks different for each person. It depends on the frequency and intensity of your regular routine and your lifestyle outside of exercise. But contrary to popular belief, a rest day isn't just about being lazy on the couch.

Here are some common recommendations for including rest days in different regimens.


Rest days are typically not required for those doing a light cardio exercise. This includes slow dancing or strolling. If your healthcare provider doesn't advise otherwise, it is safe to do them every day.

However, rest days are crucial if you engage in moderate or strenuous aerobic activity. Take a break every three to five days. If you engage in intense cardio, you should take extra rest days.

You can also exercise lightly on your day of active rest. Gentle stretching is one such exercise.


If you have taken up running as a form of exercise, it requires a different approach.

Running too much and too soon can lead to overuse, injuries, and fatigue. So, if you have just started running, three days a week is a good place to start. For the remaining days, do different types of activities or just let yourself rest. The exercises you do should involve the muscles that are not in use while you run.

Rest is even more critical if you are training for a marathon. It is best to rest more frequently in the last three weeks before the main event.

Weight Training

If you prefer resistance training or body-building, you can incorporate rest days by rotating the muscles worked.

For instance, give it a day or two to recover after working out a particular muscle group. This allows your muscle to heal and repair. To maintain your body balance, make sure to engage opposing muscles.

Assigning a day for each body part is one technique for implementing rest days. For instance, Monday may be a day for the legs, while Tuesday can be arm day.

What Are The Things  That You Can Do On Your Rest Days?

A rest day could also include active recovery activities, like stretching, foam rolling, yoga, massage, walking, dry needling, or easy biking. Let's take a closer look at some of these forms of exercise.


One of the best things you can do on a rest day is work on your mobility if you don't want your range of motion to suffer in forthcoming gym sessions. In addition to keeping your body more flexible for exercises like deeper squats, it can also prevent injuries, so you don't have to perform unilateral work.

Some light mobility exercises that can be paired with a light 20-minute walk are:

  • Cat-cow pose.
  • Open hip lunge with arm circle.
  • Arch and curl.
  • Low lunge with integrated pushback.


Regularly stretching can significantly increase flexibility and possibly ease stiff muscles. However, because they help accelerate recovery, these exercises are particularly crucial on rest days.


One of the nicest activities you can do on a rest day is yoga. It's excellent for enhancing flexibility, breathing, and body awareness. While your muscles are being loosened, it also aids in strength development.

Yoga also encourages tranquility, refreshes you, and prepares you for the next workout. Additionally, the advantages of yoga can be benefited from in a short amount of time


Massage therapy is an excellent way to recover from exercise. Plan a professional massage for your off day to extend your muscles, eliminate toxins from them and break up scar tissue. It encourages blood flow, nourishes your muscles, and makes you more flexible.

Dry Needling

Myofascial trigger points, or knots in soft tissue, can be relieved with dry needling. These trigger points are hypersensitive spots on muscles, tendons, and ligaments that frequently produce pain and stiffness following an injury. A physical therapist inserts thin filament needles during dry needling into the painful points.

According to research, puncturing a trigger point with a needle causes microtrauma that alters and normalizes the region's electrical and chemical activity. This helps restore function and reduce pain. The surrounding muscle can relax due to the trigger point being deactivated. Additionally, it attracts plasma and white blood cells, which kickstarts the healing process.


Your body typically requires fewer calories on rest days since you are less active. But rather than trying to cut out a certain quantity of calories, just pay attention to how your body feels.

Eat adequate protein every day, especially when you're supposed to rest. Consuming enough protein aids in the regeneration of muscles during rest. Active people require one to two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily. Try spacing this evenly throughout the day.

Even if you aren't exercising, getting adequate water in your system is imperative. Muscle cramps can be avoided, and your body receives nutrients better if you stay hydrated.

Consume complex carbohydrates to replenish your glycogen. You will require 3 to 10 grams per kilogram of body weight every day, depending on your level of exercise. Fruits and vegetables provide nutritious carbs and nutrients that aid in healing.

Signs You Need A Rest Day

A pause may be necessary if you spot any of the following symptoms.

1. You Are Dreading Your Workout

Exercise strains your brain as well as your body, despite what you may believe. Because exercise requires concentration, self-control, and mental toughness, your brain needs recovery time afterward, just like your body does. Therefore, you should probably pay attention if your mind pleads for a break.

2. You Are Sore

It's common to have soreness the day after an exercise, especially if it is extremely strenuous or involves unusual movements for your body. Though it can last longer, muscle discomfort peaks typically 48 hours after your workout. If your soreness lasts more than a week or you have severe pain but cannot pinpoint any recent changes to your exercise regimen that may have contributed to it, you likely need more rest.

3. Your Muscles Are Cramping

It may indicate that your body is overly exhausted if you feel muscle cramps even while engaging in relatively easy tasks or if you wake up at night with a charley horse that makes you howl. Muscle cramping can result from dehydration or overuse of the muscles, two potential adverse effects of vigorous exercise. Therefore, do your body a favor and take a day (or more) off for rehabilitation if sporadic muscular cramps interrupt your workout.

4. You Are Injured, Sick, Or In Pain

It should go without saying that you must relax if you are ill or injured. Additionally, if any aspect of your workout causes severe pain, stop doing it. For instance, your lower back may ache when you do push-ups, or you can have severe stabbing pain in your knee during a set of squats. Instead of pushing through the discomfort, stop what you're doing and, if necessary, get advice from a fitness or medical specialist before you start up again.

5. Your Heart Rate Is Elevated

Your resting heart rate (RHR) should be pretty constant, though regular aerobic exercise may cause a decline. On the other side, a higher RHR could indicate that your body is under stress (which can happen due to too much exercise). Therefore, if you monitor your RHR over the course of a week on your smartwatch (or other devices) and find that it is five or more beats per minute higher than usual, that may indicate that you aren't receiving enough rest in between workouts. Take it easy until your RHR returns to normal in that scenario.

6. You Are Dehydrated

Dehydration can cause extreme thirst, darker urine, and low blood pressure. Don't begin or prolong a workout if you're dehydrated because sweating worsens the situation. It could result in more severe consequences, including kidney failure and hypovolemic shock. Instead, stop exercising for the day and pick it back up once your fluid levels have returned to normal.

7. Your Workout Feels Harder

You probably need to take a break if you find it difficult to concentrate during virtual yoga or simply lack the emotional stamina to finish your typical weight-lifting program.

When To See A Doctor?

You should see a doctor if you feel that you have been hurt while exercising or if you start to have an unhealthy compulsion to exercise.

In some circumstances, you may recognize your injuries right away. You may feel a sense of intense discomfort, swell up, or get inflamed. In others, an injury might not show up for a few weeks. Over time, repetitive use damages the joints or muscles and worsens eventually.

If you feel forced to exercise, think about speaking with a doctor or therapist. You should seek more guidance from a physician or mental health expert if you feel an overwhelming need to exercise. Although compulsive exercise is not a recognized mental health issue, it is linked to the following:

  • Perfectionism
  • Eating Problems
  • Neuroticism
  • Narcissism and compulsive behaviors

Final Thoughts

It's tempting to skip rest days when you're in the training zone and really enjoying your workouts. But rest days should be a non-negotiable part of your routine, especially if you want to keep working out for the long haul.

A day of activity that includes relaxing exercises like yoga or gentle stretching can be considered a rest day. You can even decide to spend the entire day unwinding. A day off from your normal exercise routine can be planned or unplanned, but your body and mind will definitely thank you for taking a breather.

About the Author:

Jennifer Makin graduated from Salford University, Manchester, and has over 11 years of experience working across a broad range of private practices carrying out assessments on musculoskeletal injuries. She has worked extensively in semi-professional football providing pre/post-event massage, rehab plans, and pitch-side management.


Disclaimer: Please note that Mya Care does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information provided is not intended to replace the care or advice of a qualified health care professional. The views expressed are personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Mya Care. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen. Do not reproduce, copy, reformat, publish, distribute, upload, post, transmit, transfer in any manner or sell any of the materials in this blog without prior written permission from