6 Reasons Why Rest Days Are Important
BY DEAN KARNAZES
dean blog rest
Step count, active minutes, calories burned… These are all important pieces of data that help us live healthier, more active lives. But we often don’t stress the importance of rest and why your body needs days off.
With Fitbit, you can track and improve your quality of sleep. But that’s just part of the equation. Your tracker can also be extremely helpful in keeping tabs on your down days and limiting your activity so your body can fully recover in between your more active days of the week.
Still not convinced? Here are six simple reasons why getting your rest is so important.
1. REST PREVENTS INJURY
It’s common sense that resting is beneficial for injury reduction, but why? Well for starters, rest days prevent overuse. That extends from running to lifting and even walking. If you’re a regular runner, you know how much your legs and feet can take until you just need a day off. If you push it too hard without a break, your muscles and joints suffer from overuse and that’s where injuries can happen.
2. YOUR MUSCLES NEED REST
This is likely the first thing you learned about strength training. When you lift weights, you’re essentially tearing muscle fibers. But without a proper period of rest for your immune system to repair and grow the muscle, you’re not going to get the benefit of your training. That’s why you need to vary the muscle groups you engage on staggered days.
3. YOUR PERFORMANCE WON’T DIP
In general, it takes your body almost two weeks of non-activity before you start losing a noticeable amount of your progress or performance level. So don’t think that taking a day or two off from training will set you back all that hard work you’ve put in.
4. OVER-TRAINING AFFECTS SLEEP
Is your sleep data all over the place? Over-training could be the culprit. Too much exercise can put your body in a constant state of restlessness or on high alert making a good night’s sleep tough to achieve. A telltale sign is an increase in your resting heart rate. Taking those rest days can help bring down your alertness and heart rate, which can help get you a night of sound sleep.
Of course, sleep is so important to your general rest and well-being, so use your tracker to improve your quality and amount of sleep. A solid pattern of sleep will help you be your best on your most active days.
5. YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM CAN OVERHEAT
During periods of heavy activity, our immune systems are constantly activating to repair muscles and joints. Without proper rest, your immune system can’t catch up to all the repairs your body needs. And then? You guessed it: injuries.
6. MENTAL EDGE
From a psychological standpoint, taking a rest period can rekindle your hunger for exercise and help prevent burnout. Mental fatigue can be every bit as detrimental as physical fatigue and taking a rest day helps to recharge the psyche.
So what can you do to get your mind set on rest? For starters, you’re going to have to make the mental adjustment to understanding and believing that you can take days off. It’s good for you, for all the reasons listed above.
Just like setting your daily steps goals, set your rest goals. Plot out a schedule and pick your weekly rest days; one or two days where you limit your activity to allow your body/muscles to recover. Use your tracker to limit your active minutes. If you’re a huge step-count achiever, give yourself a day where you limit even your walking to a weekly minimum. And don’t forget that active recovery is also hugely beneficial, and a standard routine of stretching or light yoga to improve flexibility and circulation can be especially valuable.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.
An internationally recognized endurance athlete and a New York Times bestselling author, Dean Karnazes has pushed his body and mind to inconceivable limits. Among his many accomplishments, he has run 350 continuous miles, foregoing sleep for three nights. He ran across Death Valley in 120-degree temperatures, and he ran a marathon to the South Pole in negative 40 degrees. On ten different occasions, he has run a 200-mile relay race solo, racing alongside teams of twelve.