It seems the further most people travel on their fitness journey, the less rest days they tend to take. When you are in the beginning of your journey, rest days are something you savor and look forward to. At the end of your week, your body is exhausted, tired and you cannot wait to give your body the well-earned rest it deserves. As people get further into their journey, their bodies get used to the pain and abuse we put them through during the week, starting to take less and less rest days. This is not good for our bodies and can actually be counterproductive to increasing muscle size and strength.
It turns out the rest days are just as, if not, more important than actual training days. Proper training actually breaks down your muscles so they can rebuild to be bigger and stronger, so that you are able to perform your exercises properly and effectively. Rest days give your body the chance to recover and rebuild these muscles.
If you leave out rest days for too long, it will begin to negatively affect your performance in and out of the gym. Insufficient rest periods can cause these side effects: decreased performance, fatigue, poor sleeping patterns, decreased immunity, mood swings and loss of appetite. By not taking rest days, you are actually counteracting all the work you are putting in at the gym, all while putting stress on the body.
To avoid these side effects, rest days should be taken every 150 minutes of vigorous exercise. This means a rest day should be taken after about 5 days of 30-60 minutes of exercise a day. If you are working your body parts out in splits after you work a major muscle group (ex. chest, back, or legs), you should wait 48 hours before working that particular muscle group again. This will give your body adequate time to recover.
For people who are very into their fitness, it is hard for them to take a rest day. A rest day does not necessarily mean you have to sit on the couch watching TV all day—and for an active person, this feels more like a lifetime sentence rather than a relaxing Saturday. On your rest days you shouldn’t do any kind of activity that overly exerts your muscles. That means it is perfectly fine for you to go on a hike, a bike ride, or even play some pick up basketball on your rest days. It is important to ensure you are not pushing the limits of your body.