Health, Mind & Body

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The benefits of resting between workouts

Exercise enthusiasts often find it hard to break from their workout routines, even if that respite is just a single day for ordinary rest and recovery. But athletes who forgo rest will almost certainly suffer the consequences, which can include illness, injury and fatigue. When working out is part of a regular routine, it's easy for men and women to get in a groove and want to continue that groove by continuing to exercise every day. But periodic rest boasts plenty of benefits that will improve long-term performance and greatly reduce your risk for injury or illness.

• Recovery: Muscles need time to recover, so build in at least one day off per week so your body has time to heal. If you are unsure of when to take a day off, try checking your resting heart rate in the morning after a few days off from your workout routine. Take your pulse the moment you get out of bed, and remember that number going forward. On days when you need to know if your body has recovered, take your resting heart rate once again. If the number is roughly 10 beats higher than it was when you measured after a couple of days off, then your body likely needs more time to recover.

• Illness risk: Regular exercise strengthens the immune system, making it easier for the body to fend off colds and other illnesses. But if you overdo it with your workout routine, that exercise starts to have a countereffect on your immune system, weakening it and making you more susceptible to illness. So periodic rest not only helps your muscles recover but also ensures your immune system is not compromised.

• Performance: Competitive athletes may think that out-training their opponents gives them an edge, but overdoing it with training regimens can actually compromise their performance. As you go longer and longer without taking a break from your exercise routine, your body grows increasingly fatigued, and that fatigue will ultimately have an adverse effect on your performance, not to mention greatly increase your risk of injury.

• Effectiveness: Rest also helps make workouts more effective. The body needs time to rest and repair after a workout, but this downtime also gives the body time to adapt to exercise. When a body is overloaded, it has no time to adapt, making the workouts less effective. A body that begins a workout rested and free of fatigue has a better chance of benefitting from a workout than one that hasn't been given the opportunity to rest and recover. By allowing your body time to adapt, you're increasing the effectiveness of your workouts.