Why Rest Days Are Important & How to Make the Most of Them

A solid productive week of work and working out is complete and the day off you have been looking forward to is officially here. The consistent exercise routine you created for yourself has been going well and you are seeing visible results. Now that you have that day off and opportunity to rest it is time to determine how to spend it. Sometimes we may feel like a rest day from the regular workout routine should involve little to no activity, but this is not necessarily the case. When we all of a sudden go from an active state to very little or no movement at all this can cause stiffness in the muscles and lead to a decrease in motivation.


Without question it is important to take rest days to first restart the body and the mind.  Taking a break from a structured workout routine allows the body time to recover properly while also giving muscles, nerves, and bones time to rebuild.


I have been asked by various people in my exercise classes about recommended activities to perform during a rest day. One of the first things we discuss are light activities they may enjoy so they will want to continue with it moving forward. Here are a few fun light activity recommendations along with their benefits.


Take a walk outside in nature


By taking exercise outdoors it allows a change in scenery and usually a breath of fresh air. Research that new trail you may have been thinking about or discover and explore a new location to wake up the senses. You may discover a new favorite spot to unwind and recharge.


Bike ride in the area


Taking a nice bike ride outside can be a low weight bearing activity and good for cardiovascular health at the same time. Don’t forget to wear a helmet and bring water to hydrate in case you find yourself enjoying a longer ride on a pleasant day.


Try a yoga or stretch class.


I think we could all use a little more stretch and me time once in a while. There are a number of benefits to taking a yoga or stretch class. Improved flexibility, increased muscle tone and definition, better balance, increased circulation, and relaxation are to name just a few. A Gentle or Basic Hatha Yoga class is a good place to start if you are new to this form of exercise.


Listen to an audio book.


Why not take an hour on a rest day to also exercise the brain muscle?  Many times, we only think of exercising our body muscles forgetting that our brain also needs attention and variety. Try learning a new skill that you have been wanting to do: gardening, cooking, browsing the book store, all which require some light movement that continue to keep the body active.


Volunteer and help others.


Volunteering can be personally fulfilling and a great way to incorporate some light exercise in the process. There are animal shelters around the country in need of volunteers to walk and care for pets. Take a moment to research some local organizations where you live and find out how you can get involved. You may find yourself receiving more benefits from giving back and being outside while walking than the actual animal receiving the care.  If you may have been thinking of volunteering someplace but not sure where to start, do a simple internet search on volunteer organizations near me or visit: www.volunteermatch.org  to learn about opportunities and establishments looking for volunteers in specific areas.


By taking a rest day and making the most of it, it can help one both physically and mentally.  Muscles need time to repair themselves and by allowing needed rest time you will help avoid injury and overuse in the future. The muscles need time to rebuild and if they are constantly under stress and strain it will be challenging to gain that additional strength you have been working on consistently to achieve.


Now that you have reviewed some suggestions for your next day off take a minute to think about how you may want to spend it. No matter what activity you decide to pursue take into consideration the planning that may be involved and go from there. You might discover a new favorite pastime or experience a fun adventure you never thought would happen. Go grab some trail shoes, bike helmet, or yoga mat and enjoy that day off!


Keep moving,

Cara Beltran

Cara Beltran, CPT, is a NCCPT certified trainer, GRAVITYTrainer, and tennis teaching professional. She completed her undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley where she competed on the women’s tennis team throughout college. Her fitness experience has also included working as the Education and Training Coordinator for Total Gym Global Corporation. Cara currently works as a GRAVITYTrainer for the YMCA of San Diego, where she enjoys teaching classes and encouraging her students to reach their strength and fitness goals. She enjoys inspiring those around her to stay active and be the best that they can be.

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