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Permission to hit the snooze button, granted. It might just help you crush your fitness goals.

If you’re working on getting (or staying) fit, it might interest you to know that slogging it out in the gym relentlessly isn’t the only way to get there. In fact, recent research has found that back-to-back workouts could be doing more harm than good by limiting your body’s ability to repair and recover.

It’s crucial to build recovery time into any fitness regime. There are limits to how much stress the body will tolerate before it risks injury and if you’re worried about missing the gym – recovery from an injury will sideline you for far longer than taking an intermittent rest day.

Keep in mind that any kind of physical activity including exercise causes changes in the body, including muscle tissue breakdown, fluid loss and depletion of muscle glycogen, and resting will allow your body to bounce back to a rejuvenated state.

Here are just some of the benefits that you can experience by taking some time off from the gym:

Your muscles will strengthen

Weight training creates tiny tears in your muscles which, thankfully recover – but only with rest. This process of repair is what makes your muscles stronger. It’s important to work your muscles hard to stimulate protein that builds muscle, but just as important to rest to make the most of your hard work.

Your body will work harder for you

If fat loss is part of your fitness goals, working out without adequate rest can sabotage those goals. Your body has protective mechanisms in place to protect against physical threat and if you work out too hard, too frequently with no rest, your body may perceive your exercise as an unwanted physical stressor and conserve its stores to preserve your lifeforce – a.k.a. your weight loss may plateau, and you may experience unwanted weight gain aside from muscle mass alone. Making sure to get adequate rest will allow you to have plenty of energy to keep pushing yourself, without your body’s protective mechanisms inadvertently halting your progress.

You won’t burn out

Slogging it out in the gym every single day might sound like it will lead to absolutely crushing your fitness goals in no time, but there’s a strong likelihood that you’ll burn out. Taking proper time to rest and recover will help you avoid that feeling uncontrollably lethargic, exhausted and in pain, instead giving your muscles time to bounce back stronger than ever. Besides, fitness is a lifelong pursuit – it’s all about the endurance, not the short-distance sprint.

You’ll keep your head and hopes high

Exercise is an ultra-effective anti-depressant and studies have shown that it can work just as well as medication for cases of mild depressions. However, too much exercise is also shown to have the opposite effect, causing a general feeling of being ‘run down’ thanks to all the cortisol and adrenaline pumping through your veins, not to mention the anxiety that can kick in if you’ve got yourself stuck in a cycle of depriving your body of proper rest and recovery. Give yourself time to rest and your brain will thank you, rewarding you with more highs than lows.

You’ll be more alert. 

When you give yourself dedicated time to rest from your workouts, you’ll avoid feeling overly tired throughout the day and feeling lethargic when it comes time to get out of bed. One way or another, your body is going to try its best to get the rest that it needs to repair your muscle tissue. It’s not going down without a fight, so it’s better to give your body the rest it needs rather than make it try to demand the rest from you at inconvenient times.


But how much rest is enough?

Experts say that the tell-tale signs of overtraining include a feeling of staleness, depression, decreased performance, increase in injury (major or minor) and a feeling of general malaise, all indicating that you’re too worn out to be performing at your best.

Of course, common sense applies. If yesterday’s workout has you feeling so utterly sore that you can’t sit down to go to the bathroom, listen to your body’s cues and allow your muscles to repair a little before you go hard at it again.

Every body’s needs are individual, so how much rest you require will depend on your normal activity levels and your base level of fitness – and these needs will change as you become more or less fit.

And when it comes to rest, remember that it doesn’t have to equate to no exercise at all – although that can also be needed. ‘Rest’ can also mean switching up your routine. If you normally do HIIT, you might rest with some gentle weight training, for instance. Low intensity steady state cardio (LISS), or cardio carried out over a long period from 30 to 60 minutes, is a great option, and can include walking, swimming, jogging or cycling, for instance.

Rest can also be incorporated during a workout, such as in yoga, where there are regular rest periods between poses and savasana at the end. This regular rest triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which balances out the sympathetic reaction that’s caused by muscle contraction – or in other words, your muscles can rest more easily whilst still working hard.