Getting a good sweat on most days of the week is critical to good health and fitness. But if you're hitting the gym every day for months at a time, you may be getting too much of a good thing. Taking planned rest breaks both weekly and monthly helps your body recover from the intensity of your workouts. Even if it's only one day off exercise, resting your body can go a long way when it comes to recharging your batteries and warding off injuries.
Taking time off from the gym at least once a week helps your body recover, repair and get ready for the next workout.
How Much Exercise Do You Need?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 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.
If you've been exercising regularly or are training for an athletic event you may want to go beyond these recommendations. However, if you're new to fitness, you should increase the duration and intensity of your workouts slowly to prevent injury and burnout.
Read more: How Often Should I Exercise Per Week?
Benefits of Taking a Day Off From the Gym
When you give your body a break, you're allowing your muscles time to recover between workouts, which helps to repair damage sustained during exercise and prepare for the next workout. Strength and endurance gains actually happen during recovery, not in the gym. If you work out regularly, taking a day off from the gym each week gives your body a well-deserved break.
While the average gym-goer doesn't necessarily need to plan longer breaks from the gym, athletes and people recovering from vigorous training or challenging athletic events can benefit from taking a week off from the gym.
If the idea of a week off weight training sends your anxiety into over-drive, you might want to consider a few days of active rest. You can use this time to practice yoga, gentle stretches or low-intensity walking or swimming.
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 take a few days for even a week off weight training if you are sick, exhausted or injured.
Read more: Cures for Overtraining
- Princeton University Health Services: Exercise and Fitness: Overtraining Syndrome
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Physical Activity Guidelines
- Ohio State Medical Center: Should You Take a Break From Exercise?
- American Council of Exercise: How to Have Productive Rest Days
- Cleveland Clinic: 7 Signs That Exercise Is Actually Hurting Your Health
- Mayo Clinic: Overuse Injury: How to Prevent Training Injuries