How Long Should You Really Rest Between Workouts?

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
11/14/2008 2:12 PM   :  154 comments

See More: fitness, schedule, news, health,
We always talk about the importance of rest when it comes to your exercise routine. Your body needs that time to recover, and your overall health and fitness level will benefit from non-exercise days. But how much rest is too much? Research from the University of Missouri at Columbia found that only two days of inactivity are enough to cause the size of fat cells to increase by 25%! Surprised? Although this research was done on animals, the same could be true for people.

I've often heard that after 48 hours, your fitness level can start to decrease. That's one reason why it is important to stay regular with your workouts. I find that if I take too many rest days in a row, it's harder to get myself back to the gym (both physically and mentally). And when I do make it back, that same workout is usually a little more challenging than it was just 3 or 4 days before.

Balance is essential. Too few rest days and you can end up overtraining and compromising your progress. Too many rest days and your progress can also be compromised. As a general rule, I recommend taking 1-2 days off each week from all activity, spacing those days over the week.

What do you think? With so much talk about the importance of rest, are you surprised about the possible effects of just a little too much? How do you incorporate rest days into your exercise routine?


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Comments

  • KITT5545
    154
    I don't really get this whole rest day thing... Aren't we supposed to get at least 30 mins of physical activity/exercises per day? or is that a myth they just plaster over everything? - 7/26/2014   3:21:17 AM
  • 153
    I'm looking at it, this way - I'll rest two whole days and do next to nothing. I'll give what muscles I've trained a day or two off before going again. It depends on what I do for cardio how much and what kind of rest I'll give myself. If I walk (Particularly if I forget to stretch afterwards,) I'll give myself a day (or two.) Right now, my strength/toning regimen goes: M: UpBod, W: Core, Th: UpBod, F: Lower body. I think that's fair. ;) - 5/20/2014   9:33:22 AM
  • 152
    It sounds good to me, possible one day some weeks and two days other weeks. I like to exercise when I feel up to it, and for arthritis , its pretty much essential, unless I want to be totally dependent on NSAIDS and PAIN KILLERS.. for which I choose neither on to be dependent on. I would rather use a heating pad, and stick to my anti inflammatory food consumption, and exercise !! - 1/22/2014   12:02:25 PM
  • 151
    my question is how do we know which is to much exercise and not enough when at my job im on my feet like all day i get at least 10,000 steps alone at work and i don't know what is the best type of exercise to do before i work i most usually work from 12:30-9:30 sunday - thursday my lunch around 4-5 usually what do you recomend any suggestions? - 12/13/2013   5:17:23 PM
  • 150
    Katajojo, thank you for your explanations of the biochemial tides and processes in the human body. Especially the point about the interaction of a carb-laden bedtime snack with human growth hormone.
    I find that my reading of the article is that a person should not rest for 48 hours straight; the two days of rest during the week really ought to be separated by at least one day.
    I myself take Thursdays and Sundays off from what I call exercise, and I find that Fridays and Mondays are easier than Tuesdays and Saturdays. - 10/22/2013   9:47:47 PM
  • KATAJOJO
    149
    well, I am a biochemist and I don't know what metabolic process demands 48 hours recovery. The body's 8 - 9 hour sleep at night is all that's really needed to recover and build muscle. Growth hormone is produced 90 minutes after we fall asleep, and then for the rest of the 6 hours it breaks down fat and builds muscle. As long as you don't eat any carbohydrate at least three hours before bedtime (carbohydrates prevent growth hormone release), and as long as you get 8 - 9 hours of sleep at night (the growth hormone recovery pathway requires this amount of sleep) there's no reason you can't exercise daily. Our ancestors worked daily in the fields, hunted, etc. etc. and our bodies were made to MOVE MOVE MOVE. There's no biochemical reason I know of that a person needs to rest more than the normal 8 - 9 hours at night. Resting 48 hours has always been a strange notion to me. Maybe it's for those people who don't get a good night's sleep. Well those people probably shouldn't be working out anyway. So, as long as you eat right, get a good night's sleep, and train within your body's maximum physical capacity, you should be able to work out or train daily. Caio. - 8/16/2013   1:35:05 PM
  • 148
    I don't do well with breaking the pattern, so my rest days aren't sedentary. I like to do 'active leisure' things like walking & gentle yoga practices, instead of Ashtanga yoga, cardio machines, or weight lifting. I still get the benefits of activity, but a different way of moving and lower intensity. - 5/22/2013   6:12:41 AM
  • 147
    Sunday is a good rest day for me too. Sunday's routine is always so much different than the rest of the week it just makes sense to me that this would be my body's day off. - 4/13/2013   8:43:49 PM
  • 146
    I am trying to build a routine in my fitness plan but I also suffer from fibromyalgia with unpredictable chronic fatigue and pain which frequently interferes with my activity levels. Still, I do believe that 2 days between activity causes fat to increase - I actually feel "fatter" when I've not worked out. I had always that it was mental but I see there is an actual physiological effect on the body. I will plan my rest days and follow them so I will be more motivated about building a stronger routine to workout. - 4/6/2013   4:15:24 AM
  • PUGGLEMONKEY
    145
    I think resting a day between strength training is a good idea to give muscles a chance to repair (esp for us newbies). With cardio, I think it depends on how you feel. Sometimes I walk (walk at home type) several days in a row, but then will take a day off if I'm starting to have pain in my knees. I have multiple knee issues and was told by an ortho doc. to let my pain be my guide (and avoid high impact exercises). - 3/13/2013   1:57:11 PM
  • 144
    I do some form of cardio every single day--7 days a week. Keeps my heart healthy & my body energized! I add weight lifting every other day--M, W, F....so I do take rest days between lifting.

    When I workout daily I feel better--physically I have more energy and my joints ache less, I get fewer colds & headaches, and I sleep better at night...emotionally I feel on a more even-keel after a good workout...and mentally I feel super-positive! No more antidepressants!

    Do what YOU have to do to feel healthy--and exercise as much or as little as suits your life....nobody else lives your life--only YOU do! :) - 2/18/2013   11:43:34 AM
  • BRNBSSR
    143
    This is all dependant on what kind of exercise your doing.. some professional weight lifters will tell you you need 2 weeks to recover from truly heavy deadlifts a week at least from heavy squats and that any exercise between that time just prolongs your recovery, yet many studies show those who work out for less than a year doing cardio workouts perhaps running will loses 100% of there built up endurance with as little as a 30 days rest and that cardiovascular workouts need to be done more regularly.. this post really does not define the target goal of the person or the type of workout this rest schedule is suggested for. - 11/3/2012   10:57:56 AM
  • LYALYCAY
    142
    I find this article VERY true.. I didn't do my morning walk over the 4 day holiday weekend and today when I started my routine it was harder I didn't feel like doing it as long as I usually do :( - 9/8/2010   9:53:31 AM
  • MILLERALM
    141
    Building up the number of minutes working out everyday. I know I feel better when I do "something" everyday even if only walking for 20-30 minutes. - 9/5/2010   2:06:56 PM
  • 140
    For the first time this week a took a break day. I work 2 jobs where I am on my feet constantly and do 70-80 minutes of cardio on top of that per day. Monday I decided that one day a week would be a good thing. I almost went crazy not running. I did walk my dogs and worked both jobs - 6am-7pm so it's not like i sat on my bum all day :) I'm always worried that taking a day off might break the good habbits. - 8/5/2010   9:03:40 PM
  • 139
    I definitely agree. I recently had a migraine for almost a week and I needed to start my exercise routine over because I lost so much stamina. - 8/4/2010   9:45:20 AM
  • 138
    This is defenitly an issue for me. I would only take off is I just did not have enough time. Those days became fewer because I just took the time. Then I would take the day off if I was just sore from working out so many days in a row. Now I work out in 4 day stretches and take the 5th day off. I also alternate with upper body and abs and lower body and core. Today is my second day so I concentrated on legs and lower back and core excersizes tomorrow will be arms and abs. I know that abs and core are pretty much the same thing. When I do core I do stregnth training which works out my entire midsection. My ab workouts concentrate on just my abs. - 7/31/2010   1:40:08 PM
  • 137
    I take one day off a week from the gym, but I do cardio every day, whether at the gym or walking outdoors. - 7/28/2010   11:35:33 PM
  • 136
    Unless injured, one day rest is a good thing for me.... more, and I start to slide! - 7/7/2010   3:05:23 PM
  • 135
    I rest at least 2 days between weights, but do cardio of some kind almost every day - even if it's only a short walk. - 7/7/2010   12:25:52 PM
  • 134
    I agree, too much of reat takes me back to lethargy more, i take one day off still keep me physcially evry active that day also. - 6/30/2010   5:02:05 AM
  • 133
    I rarely take a day off of some kind of exercise. I only do weight training 3 or 4 days a week but always try to find time for at least a bike ride, other cardio or at least walking. - 6/29/2010   4:20:27 PM
  • 132
    I try not to have days where I do nothing at all, because it makes it so hard to get back to it the next day. I have a light warmup/stretch routine that I do for 20-30 minutes just about every day. On "rest" days, I do that and maybe a light walk. If I'm away from home and can't workout, I get at least a short walk. That keeps me in the routine and keeps me feeling energized. I've scheduled my strength training so that I have at least a day between upper body workouts and at least a day between lower body workouts. - 6/24/2010   10:29:48 AM
  • 131
    I always take Friday's off for sure. I don't know why I chose Friday's I guess because it is the end of the long week so I just would rather go home and relax and maybe go out for a healthy dinner. I usually take a nother day off during the week and it tends to seem to fall on either Sunday or Tuesday. - 6/17/2010   11:49:41 AM
  • 130
    Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays are my "hard days" cardio and strength training, then Thursdays are a short cardio (45 mins instead of an hour). Saturdays and Tuesdays I do a fun/relaxin like a leisurely walk or some yoga/extra stretches. Sundays are my off days. - 6/16/2010   9:00:39 PM
  • 129
    I usually take at least a day off per week (sunday), but sometimes even on Sunday we take a bike ride or go for a walk. Of course, my workouts aren't always intense either. My goal is 45 minutes 5 days a week, but I usually end up working out doing something on Saturdays as well. Just depends on how my week ends up. - 6/16/2010   6:32:56 AM
  • 128
    I started working out every day for 30 min and increased a little each week. It was great at first, lots of energy. My workout now consist of 50 min low impact aerobics and 10 min strength training usually in the morning. I recently added walking in the evening. I am beginning to feel very tired. I think balance is the key and I agree with listening to your body. - 6/16/2010   6:32:26 AM
  • 127
    I exercise Mon-Wed, Fri & Sat. Two rest days, I was finding by thursday I needed a break, and I wanted one of my weekend days to be completely outside of the gym, so I picked sunday. I try and get none-exercise activity, as some people call it, every day though. Such as a walk, or a gentle swim, something like that. - 6/15/2010   1:54:22 PM
  • 126
    I usually have at least one day a week when I cannot excersize, like tomorrow when I take my husband to Emory Hospital in Atlanta Ga, we live 3 hours away and have to leave today so we dont have to leave at 1 to get there by 5 30am, that is how I gage my off days. - 5/27/2010   9:24:09 AM
  • 125
    I exercise every day, but for varying times. I really need to get more specific exercises in and not stick with the same ones. - 5/25/2010   5:19:46 PM
  • 124
    Exercise has become a part of my everyday life...it's now harder not to exercise than to exercise...given most of us "rest" so much in front of a computer, on the couch, in a car or on the subway...really...we don't need need more rest...we need more movement!! - 5/14/2010   1:15:32 AM
  • 123
    I have just gotten back on the exercise wagon this week. So far I have done cardio everyday. I made sure that each day the time that I spent on the exercise was different. I did nothing less than 30 mins and nothing more than 60 mins. Today I will do 30 mins of cardio. Next week I will be adding weight training to my routine. I don't want to take time off. If I do I will fall back into the place where I am now. - 3/26/2010   11:53:43 AM
  • 122
    I take one complete rest day. I only do weights 2 days a week. I do take two days of no weight between so my muscles can rebuild. I was taught that by a previous trainer. But doing cardio work tends to keep the muscles from over tightening, keeps them a little warm. I may not do as intense of cardio the day after depending on how sore I am after weights, but I try to keep moving. Also, try not to over eat on my off day, not burning the extra calories, can't eat them either! - 3/23/2010   3:05:34 PM
  • 121
    I was surprised to learn that after a 2 day rest the hard work I put into exercise starts to diminish. I wandered how that worked. I must be more consistant with exercising if I am going to get consistant results. I have also been researching the calorie count for some of these restaurant foods that look so harmless. WOW
    One day splurging can really undo a week of hard work. - 3/13/2010   11:13:55 AM
  • 120
    rest days are school days for me so every tues and thurs!! - 3/12/2010   11:37:48 AM
  • 119
    I stoped excersicing for a day then the next day I intended to and I didn't then the next 3 days I couldn't convince myself to do it! I have got to get back on track. - 3/11/2010   2:31:20 PM
  • CLBARR1
    118
    I do believe in rest days. I try to rest twice a week. Typically Fridays and every Sunday. I mix my workouts up during the week, with cardio and strength training. When the weather becomes nicer I will be running more often outside, typically on Saturdays. I do find that I'm more energized by given myself rest days. I truely believe in them! Especially Sundays! Everyone in my life knows that I do no physical activity on that day....it is truely a day of rest! - 3/11/2010   12:14:53 PM
  • 117
    I exercise every day - the only thing I adjust is the intensity. This allows me to ease up on my body while keeping my mind focused on getting fit. - 3/9/2010   2:39:44 PM
  • NAGEM26
    116
    i try to get at least 30 - 45 min of cardio each day and strength train 3 days a week for 30 minutes also. i don't work a set schedule so i tend to just take one day each week for a rest day.i go by how my body feels and not a set day to rest. I just tried a two day rest but i felt blah on the second day so i am just going to stick to 1 day rest days. - 3/7/2010   10:24:38 AM
  • 115
    Too many days off and I am sluggish. Usually one day off or maybe a nice walk after two days of working out. - 3/3/2010   11:44:07 PM
  • SAVANTRICE
    114
    as some said, i'm leary of 2 many rest days because they tend to turn into 'rest weeks". right now i aim to get to the gym 6-7 days/wk and that works for me. That way if I'm too busy and can't fit into my schedule I dont feel to guilty. That typically happens during the week, if I'm at home I go to the gym on the weekends.
    I do lift weights every time I go to the gym, but I vary work different body parts on different days. That way I do technically have 48 hrs of 'rest' before working the same muscle group...so far so good...no injuries, no issues. - 2/28/2010   7:53:27 PM
  • 113
    I had a hard time taking rest days in the 1st month of my new program because I was so afraid of falling off the wagon...this past week I took a few days off against my better judgment and when I started back up I had a VERY hard time keeping up with the exercises I was starting to master. I wish I NEVER took those 3 days off! Lesson learned! I think one day of rest for ME is best. - 2/12/2010   2:09:41 PM
  • KEDMUNDS1
    112
    I am with MTRAMMELL1. My cardio workouts are varied in type and intensity. If I am likely to do plyometrics in class, my personal cardio workout earlier that day will be relatively high intensity but low impact like arc trainer sprints, upright bike or cycling bike. If its a Pilates or yoga only day, I will push myself to run intervals on the treadmill and do some bench step-ups. Yesterday I was just flat out tired and had some joint aches so I did a 30 minute treadmill walk that averaged out to a 16 minute mile. - 1/30/2010   7:07:32 PM
  • 111
    I think staying active every day in some way is the best. That way your body is always in motion at some point each day and you don't have to worry about days off. - 1/18/2010   9:32:36 AM
  • 110
    I do three days of cardio and three days of strength training a week, resting on Fridays. It seems to work well - I can lose between 1 and 2 pounds a week on this plan. - 1/9/2010   10:39:21 AM
  • 109
    I try to alternate my cardio workouts between intense and little less intense every other day. For example, running on Monday, walking on Tuesday, hill hiking/running on Wednesday, Water jogging on Thursday. That way I have a lot of variety and certain muscle groups are getting a break. I always take a one day break between weight lifting days and one day with no exercise every week. More than that, I get off track and notice fatigue! - 12/7/2009   11:33:04 AM
  • 108
    I do an intense cardio workout every day, either an hour or half hour, and then fast walk for the rest so that I get two hours of exercise in every day. I strength train every other day for three days a week only. I actually do not know how to put a rest day in. I seem to have to work very hard to lose very little and tone up. I guess my metabolism isn't as good as others on here who seem to lose so much so quickly. It has taken me a year and a half to go from a start of 192 to 135. - 10/27/2009   12:24:28 PM
  • LELLEDGE
    107
    4MYHEALTH, I understand your situation completely. Thank the Lord my kids are grown. Do you get a lunch hour at work? Maybe you could walk or climb stairs for 20 minutes. - 10/21/2009   7:06:34 AM
  • 106
    Spaceface: You can't actually "sweat out toxins." Your immune system doesn't work that way. Also, you should NEVER fast. There's no medical benefit to fasting ESPECIALLY if you're sick. - 10/20/2009   1:56:37 PM
  • SPACEFACE
    105
    I work out 60 minutes twice a week, 30 minutes three times a week and about 20 minutes twice a week. Don't my shorter work out times count as rest? I don't feel compromised by working out every day, I feel great. Though I don't know if I've shed much weight after building up to this routine over two months time, I don't keep a scale in the house. I've almost skipped my work out entirely the past couple days, my body's been fighting off the cold virus and I've been feeling worn down, though some sources say being active and sweating along with fasting is a good way to push toxins out of your system when you're sick. - 9/29/2009   6:44:38 PM

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