Rest is vital for both bodily and mental health. Taking time off from exercise and other daily stresses allows your body to repair and recover. In addition, rest helps prevent injuries and ensures that you can sustain the level of fitness you enjoy for longer.
As with most areas of life, you will find that you can achieve the best results with balance rather than extremes. Our bodies do so much for us and will often tell us what we need if we are willing and know how to listen.
You must know when and how to rest by learning to recognise if you need more downtime and understanding what could happen if you don’t take some time off.
Benefits of regular rest
Slowing down and relaxing can be incredibly beneficial. Of course, it is best to schedule rest days regularly if you want to get the most from them, but remember that you can always rest more if you feel like you need it.
Frequent rest can help with:
- Soreness and pain
Your muscles are likely going to feel sore and tired after exercise. Taking a break allows the body to recover and stops you from straining your muscles further.
- Muscle repair and building
Exercise commonly causes microscopic tears in the muscles, and these can grow over time, especially if you are not allowing time for the tears to heal. However, fibroblast cells can repair and build up your muscles when you rest, so you are ready to exercise once again.
When we exercise, our body uses up something called glycogen, and this depletion leads to our muscles feeling fatigued. When you rest, you allow your body to replenish its store of glycogen, which improves your energy levels and metabolism, resulting in a more successful and long-lasting fitness routine.
- Preventing injury
Repetitive actions, often incurred because of overexercising, are likely to cause injury. The good news is that rest gives your body time to recover from these strains and allows you to continue exercising to your fullest potential. And it is worth noting that failure to rest can result in continued strains, which may eventually lead to irreversible damages.
- See better results from working out
Many people think that resting will take away from their hard work if they are trying to get fit or improve their health. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Health is all about balance, and as much as regular exercise matters, so does taking time to rest. Failure to properly rest can be one of the reasons that you do not see results when working out.
- Mental health
Rest days can also improve mental health. Excessive exercise leads to general tiredness, which impacts our ability to cope with our daily lives and emotions. When you are well-rested, you will find that you feel more positive and can make better decisions regarding your fitness, work, social life, and more.
Learning to recognise when your body needs more rest
Some people find it difficult to get into a regular fitness routine, while others find it difficult to live without it. It can be tricky to factor in frequent rest days if you are worried about getting out of the routine you have worked to build or simply don’t want to take time away from something you enjoy.
In any case, rest is necessary for the health of our bodies and minds. So it can help to be aware of signs that your body is overworked and in need of rest to protect your long-term wellbeing.
Some common signs of your body needing to rest include:
- Feeling constantly tired and unmotivated, even after events that should energise you (like exercise or eating).
- Struggling to complete your normal workout may also indicate that your body is exhausted.
- Seeing decreased results from your exercise regiment. Your body may have become used to your fitness routine, and a break could help kick-start your progress once more.
- Sore muscles are a fairly normal part of working out, but it could also signal that you need to rest if it is painful or the aching is not going away.
- Mood swings or changes can also be the result of overtiredness. So take a break if you feel irritable or just generally not yourself.
- An inability to sleep or sleep well can be brought about by overexercising.
- If you notice you are craving lots of unhealthy foods or are struggling with binge eating, then it’s time to take a day off.
- Frequent injuries or illnesses can also signal that your body needs time to rest and recover. It becomes harder for us to avoid strains or fight off sickness when fatigued.
Risks of not resting
Inconsistent or limited rest days can have serious short and long-term health consequences. You will become physically and mentally exhausted if you never rest. When you feel drained, your judgment is impaired, and you are more likely to make mistakes and injure yourself permanently.
Insufficient amounts of rest and sleep have even been found to contribute to long-term health issues such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Rest days are as important for our mind as for our body. Getting into regular exercise can be extremely challenging if you are new to fitness or have stopped exercising and want to start again. Fortunately, you can get your fitness back on track. As you start, remember to take time to rest without criticising yourself if you want to sustain your efforts.
Enjoying your time off
Resting shouldn’t be a chore. There are plenty of fun things to do when you take a day off from exercise.
You could meet friends or family, enjoy a hobby, catch up on work, or even volunteer. That is not to say that you have to do anything in particular when resting; you might want to simply enjoy a day of watching TV or reading. If you feel fidgety, you could have an active recovery day where you engage in light exercise.