When you first start exercising, it's tempting to get excited and go all-out, working as hard as you can every day to hit your fitness goals. However, exercise, like everything else, needs a dash of moderation to stop yourself succumbing to injury. It sounds counter-intuitive, but you can have too much of a good thing.
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Rest days are an important part of every training programme, from beginners right up to elite athletes. You can skip them, but it won't do you any good: one 2018 study published in the journal Frontier Physiology (opens in new tab) found those who exercised every day got no fitter, and lost the same amount of body fat, as those who took regular rest days.
When you exercise, your muscle fibres actually suffer small "micro-tears", which is what causes muscle soreness. When they repair themselves, they get bigger and stronger, but they need time in order to do so. That's why rest days are so important: your body needs time to recover.
How much rest should you be getting? Information collected by scientists at the University of New Mexico (opens in new tab) suggests that for beginners, one or two days rest between sessions is probably fine, especially if you're doing a different kind of exercise.
If you're a more experienced lifter, you can shorten this amount of time by "splitting" your workouts into different sets of muscle groups: for example, you could exercise three days in a row, and still leave your body time to repair, by doing your back and biceps one day, chest and triceps another day, and cardio on the third day. However, scientists still recommend getting full days of rest in.
If you really can't sit still, opt for "active recovery". This is one way to stay active on your rest day by doing something low-stress, such as yoga or some light swimming.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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