The reality of exercise that most people aren’t aware of is that the physical changes you’re chasing do not happen as you exercise but rather during the time you’re recovering from a workout session. As you exercise, your muscle fibers experience small microscopic tears that can create a feeling of soreness. During periods of inactivity, the affected muscles reconstruct through a cellular process where fibers fuse together to form stronger and bigger muscles.
Therefore, the only way to achieve the desired results is to allow for adequate rest time. Failure to do so will result in what fitness buffs call workout burnout, which is one of the reasons why many people start an exercise routine strong only to quit a few weeks later.
So, how many rest days do you need when starting a new exercise routine? Well, there are basically 2 main approaches when it comes to determining the ideal number of rest days you’ll need.
#1 The General Approach
Some experts suggest that muscle soreness usually subsides two days post-exercise. Therefore, a minimum of 48 hours of rest is enough to allow optimal recovery that will prevent injury. Fitness experts say that this 48-hour resting approach will work whether you’re a beginner, gym rat, or a competitive athlete.
#2 The More Personalized Approach
Other experts argue that the 48-hour approach may not work for everyone since there are other factors to consider when it comes to determining adequate rest. For instance, older people experience a slower muscle recovery and will, therefore, need more than 2 days to fully recover from exercise. The same is the case for people who have large muscles, train at high intensities, or engage a large number of muscles during workouts. Other factors that affect how long it takes your muscles to recover include what you eat, how often you work out, and the duration of your exercises. So, the best way to determine how long to rest may be to simply listen to your body. If your muscles feel too sore to tackle everyday tasks like lifting things or climbing stairs, then you probably should not expose them to more strain. Rest until the soreness is gone or significantly reduced.
Whichever approach you choose to take, the trick is to avoid pushing your body too hard. Loss of appetite, severe fatigue, aches and pains, reduced performance, depression, slower healing, depressed immune system, and changes in your mood all point to overtraining, which means you should slow down or take some time off from exercise.
A few other tricks to ensuring adequate recovery include cooling down after workouts, getting enough sleep (at least 8 hours), and eating right. Engaging in light physical activities such as swimming, yoga, Pilates, or jogging during rest days while on a weight training regimen is also advisable. It helps prevent your fitness progress from slowing down and increases muscle relaxation, which benefits recovery.