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Why you should take more rest days (and not feel guilty about it)

May 03, 2022  |  Published by Body & Soul

Here, Brodie Hicks from the Australian Institute of Fitness explains why you should always factor in rest days.

It’s tough when we are working towards a goal to consider the need for a rest day. After all, if we aren’t training, are we still working towards our goal? Regardless of whether your goals are performance or aesthetic related, or if you exercise for mental health reasons, physical activity has so many benefits.

For many, the thought of a rest day seems counterintuitive, but I am here to tell you that a rest day might in fact be your best ‘training session’ of the week – here’s why.

Resting allows for change to happen

Most of us who train want to physically improve in one way or another, even if it is not necessarily your primary goal. Whether it be muscle gain, fat loss, strength, general fitness or any other measure of physical improvement, regular physical activity is going to be key to driving adaptation.

However, the often overlooked sibling of physical training is the role that rest plays in achieving the goals you seek.

Whenever we perform physical activity we actually cause damage to our body. It is this damage that powers ongoing adaptation, as the body recognises the damage as ‘weakness’ and it repairs the structure stronger than before.

For example, regular strength training causes microscopic tears in the muscle (often referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness) which is the muscle pain you feel after a heavy training session. Adequate levels of rest allow these muscles to repair themselves stronger than before, thus improving your strength.

Rest reduces the risk of injury

Injury and niggles are part and parcel of regular physical activity, whether it be the slight tweak in the knee, a tight lower back or clicky shoulder. The bane of any regular exerciser’s existence is a genuine injury that prevents them from continuing on in their program. Often more serious injuries begin with a niggle and turn into something bigger.

Rest is an integral part in preventing the onset of injury. Incorporating strategic periods of rest into your week can help with reducing inflammation and encouraging the recovery process to occur, meaning that you’ll be back hitting the pavement or the weight room in no time, instead of hitting the physio table.

Down time can help prevent burnout

Burnout can come in many different forms including both physical and mental. Physical burnout is often referred to as overtraining, and occurs when the body is not afforded enough rest where continual training stimulus is applied.

Physical burnout causes the body to continue to break down until severe fatigue, injury or illness occurs as a result.

Mental burnout is similar to physical, however, the individual suffers from a psychological drop where motivation, drive, and enthusiasm are all negatively impacted.

In either case, suffering from burnout is going to drastically impact your progress towards your goal. Incorporating regular rest days within your program will provide your body and mind with the respite it craves so burnout never becomes a problem.

Taking time out can the risk of illness

The paradox of regular physical activity is that it can both prevent and cause illness. Enough physical activity has been shown to play an integral role in the prevention of illness and disease, while too much has been shown to increase the risk. Just as over exercising can cause injuries, it can also reduce the effectiveness of our immune system.

While the occasional sickness is largely avoidable, we can implement practices to ensure that we aren’t exacerbating the problem by having a compromised immune system. Regular physical activity dispersed with strategic rest days are a sure fire way to keep that immune system high so that you can keep crushing your goals.

Brodie Hicks is the general manager of training at the Australian Institute of Fitness where he manages the training division, ensuring that the next wave of personal trainers continue to create positive change.

Body & Soul

Body & Soul

The Australian Institute of Fitness
At the Australian Institute of Fitness (AIF), we are no stranger to the competitive and evolving nature of the fitness industry. That’s why we remain the #1 fitness educator since 1979. We continuously raise the bar by providing the best education and resources through dynamic and hybrid training methods that mould to your lifestyle. We are strong believers in evidence over fads, so you can be assured your training with AIF will solidify your career for the long-term.

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