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How Often Should You Take Time Off From the Gym?

author image Danielle DeSimone
Danielle DeSimone is a writer and sports nutritionist living in Point Pleasant, N.J. She holds a B.A. in writing, literature and publishing from Emerson College and is currently a student of veterinary technology. As a freelance writer, DeSimone enjoys covering health, fitness and nutrition.
How Often Should You Take Time Off From the Gym?
Taking regular days off from the gym helps your body recover and can keep injuries and illness at bay.

Getting enough exercise is important for maintaining a healthy weight and preventing diseases. However, exercising too much can negatively impact your health. If you exercise frequently you should plan for regular days off from the gym to allow your body time to repair muscle damage and recover from workouts.

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Exercise Recommendations

The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommend that adults under age 65 should aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise five days per week or 20 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise three days per week in addition to strength training at least twice per week to target all muscle groups. People who have been exercising regularly or are training for an athletic event may go beyond these recommendations with no adverse effects; however, those new to fitness should increase the duration and intensity of their workouts slowly to prevent injury and burnout.

Importance of Rest and Recovery

Allowing your body time to recover between workouts helps your muscles repair damage sustained during exercise and prepare for the next workout. Strength and endurance gains actually happen during recovery and not in the gym. If you work out regularly, take at least one day off from the gym per week to give your body a well-deserved break. While average gym-goers do not need to plan longer breaks from the gym, athletes and people recovering from vigorous training or challenging athletic events benefit from recovery with either reduced amounts of exercise or no exercise at all during certain weeks.

Signs of Overtraining

The amount of exercise that causes overtraining varies from person to person. A seasoned athlete may be able to hit the gym for two hours six days a week as part of a regular training program, but this level of exercise would quickly leave most people burned out or injured. Signs of overtraining include exhaustion and fatigue, insomnia, moodiness, decreased performance, lack of appetite and muscle soreness. Rest is crucial to improving your fitness and athletic performance, and if you feel like you may be overtraining, it’s wise to cut back on the time you spend at the gym. Overtraining makes you more susceptible to illness and overuse injuries, which may prevent you from hitting the gym for weeks or even months. While overtrained athletes may require months of rest, average exercisers typically need to take more days off per week and focus on shorter, easier workouts while their bodies recover.

Planning Time Off from the Gym

While it may feel counter-intuitive to take regular days off from the gym when you’re trying to improve your fitness or lose weight, rest will help you achieve your ultimate goal. Plan to take one to two days off from the gym each week, and pay attention to your body during and after your workouts. If you feel exceptionally sore or fatigued, extra rest can help your body recuperate so you’ll get more out of your time at the gym. You may need to stay out of the gym for two days or longer if you are sick, exhausted or injured.

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