Being healthy and physically fit is about more than trips to the gym. A healthy life requires a healthy lifestyle, and this means that sometimes you need to take a step away from the gym and give your body what it needs most: rest. Rest days are crucial to long-term success, but that doesn’t mean that you need to swap out a day at the gym for a day on the couch. Just as you use strategy at the gym to get the most out of your workout, you need to apply some strategy at home to give your body the best chance at a full recovery.

 Why Rest Days Matter

A good workout will push your body to meet and exceed its limits. In pushing your muscles to get stronger, you first tear them down, momentarily making your entire body feel weaker, not stronger. This is because, in order to build your muscles up, you first need to break them apart—literally. An intense upper-body workout that targets your forearms and biceps will actually create small tears in your bicep and forearm muscles. When lactic acid builds up in these small tears, it creates the burning sensation that we associate with post-workout soreness. Whether your goal is to build strength, tone muscle or lose weight, you need to factor in time to let your muscles heal properly.

Implementing rest days into your regular workout routine provides the body with an opportunity to heal. Muscles are able to reform and recover from those small tears in stronger formations, and this is how they become more toned or increase in size. You do the prep work in the gym, but it is at home when you are taking a proper rest that your muscles will start to show.

Of course, other factors should be taken into account when you take a rest day. Rest doesn’t mean abandonment. Just because you aren’t going to lift for a day or two doesn’t mean that you need to lose all focus on health and wellness. Eating plenty of protein and focusing on incorporating healthy foods like leafy greens into your diet will support your muscles and immune system and will enhance your body’s recovery process.

So, how much rest is the right amount? This depends on a lot of factors, including how experienced you are in the gym, what type of workout you are doing, your workout intensity level and your ultimate workout goals. So for example, if you are a beginner or have not worked out regularly for some time and are just getting back into shape, then rest at least one day between standard workouts and two days between intense workouts. However, if you are a workout connoisseur who can’t take that much time away from the gym, then so be it. A good 8 hours of sleep might do the trick for you, but even then, it is still a good idea to schedule at least one day a week where you don’t work out, and you give your body the time to fully recover.

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