To get the most effective results from exercise, you need to alternate the intensity and volume of your exercise. Additionally, you should have an active rest day.
Alternating between low, moderate and high-intensity workouts is known as periodization. It helps you structure an optimal workout routine and schedule active rest days.
Taking regular breaks to allow your body to rest and repair is very important and advantageous. This article will show you the benefits of an active rest day and the best exercises to do on those days.
WHAT IS ACTIVE RECOVERY?
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Exercise creates two types of stress on your muscles. The first type is metabolic stress. This comes from depleting energy stored in individual muscle cells.
The second type is mechanical stress. This is the physical damage to the muscle proteins. During the recovery period, your body repairs the muscle protein and restores cellular glycogen.
Taking a rest day doesn’t mean you should veg out on the couch because you’re not supposed to over-exerting yourself.
An active rest day involves you doing very low-intensity activities such as swimming or cycling. This helps stimulate recovery without putting excessive stress on your body.
Another active rest day workout is hiking. You can also try: stretching, foam rolling, walking, child’s play or mild sports.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF REST DAYS?
Active rest days are highly beneficial to your health and well-being.
These are the advantages of an active rest day.
1. PROMOTE MUSCLE GROWTH
During active rest, cells in your muscles called fibroblasts repair tissues. This is what helps your muscles grow bigger and stronger.
Rest also gives your muscles a chance to restore glycogen.
2. REDUCE THE RISK OF MUSCLE FATIGUE
Because exercise depletes glycogen in the muscles, it’s important to give them a period of rest.
If you don’t have an active rest day, you increase the chances of muscle fatigue and soreness.
Your muscles need to replace the glycogen used up. This can only be done by resting up.
3. REDUCE THE RISK OF INJURY
This is to help you lower the risk of getting hurt. If you don’t take any active rest days, you can overuse your muscles which can lead to a tear, sprain or stress.
Overworking yourself also increases the chance of dropping a weight or taking the wrong step.
If you hurt yourself, you will have to take even more rest days which can negate all the fitness progress you’ve made.
4. IMPROVE ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
Overdoing your workouts can make your exercise program less effective. If you’re overworked, you will be less motivated to complete your fitness regimen.
Overtraining reduces your endurance, poor reaction times and poor agility.
Rest helps improve your energy and decreases fatigue. This helps improve athletic performance.
5. HEALTHY SLEEP PATTERNS
Physical activity increases the production of energy hormones.
Excessive exercise overproduces them. When you have too much cortisol and adrenalin, you’ll struggle to get enough sleep.
Resting helps restore your hormones to normal states.
6. IMPROVES MENTAL HEALTH
Physical exertion can lead to mental fatigue as well. This is because you need to keep your mind engaged to maintain stamina.
Taking an active rest day helps you recharge your brain.
7. REDUCE LACTIC ACID BUILDUP
Blood lactate can accumulate in muscles during a workout. This leads to increased hydrogen ions in the body.
Active recovery periods can help you reduce this accumulation. This also reduces muscle fatigue.
8. INCREASES HEART HEALTH
Active recovery helps you boost your heart health since it promotes increased blood flow on your rest day.
Active recovery also maintains heart rate which helps with endurance and enables you to increase your training volume.
9. REDUCES INFLAMMATION
Active rest days promote blood flow to the joints and muscles. This helps to reduce inflammation. Your joints also get damaged during exercise which can lead to an inflammatory response.
If you don’t give your joints enough time to regenerate, they can become chronically inflamed or degenerate which can lead to serious injury.
10. MAINTAIN MUSCLE FLEXIBILITY
Active rest days help your muscles maintain flexibility. This refers to the stretch a muscle allows.
Your muscles are designed to stretch and contract which helps you do different activities such as opening a door.
Active recovery helps you maintain the stretch that you’ve gained from your normal workout routine.
WHAT IS A GOOD ACTIVE REST DAY?
To design a good active rest day, you need to examine the intensity of your routine. You can choose from the following active recovery activities.
Depending on your routine, your active rest day should take 20-45 minutes.
Yoga is a set of posing exercises which help improve your flexibility and body control. It involves principles of deep breathing and meditation.
Yoga helps promote blood flow which boosts muscle repair.
Yoga engages the muscles, tendons and fascia around the joints that can seize up due to post-exercise inflammation.
2. LIGHT RESISTANCE TRAINING
You can lift light weights if you’re not too sore from your usual workouts.
Do up to eight exercises to complete a circuit. Perform each move for 40s with 20s of rest in between.
One study found that triathletes who swam after a HIIT session had better exercise performance the next day.
Researchers think pool water possibly helps to reduce inflammation.
4. WALKING OR JOGGING
Walking helps enhance blood flow and gives you efficient recovery.
Jogging is also an excellent active rest day exercise, especially if you’re a runner.
Cycling is an effective low-impact exercise that can help relieve pressure in your joints.
You can use an outdoor or indoor stationary bike with low resistance.
Using a foam roller can help relieve tightness, reduce inflammation and increase range of motion.
Self-myofascial release is highly beneficial especially for your quads, back and arms.
A foam rolling massage also provides relief from soreness.
Doing cardio on skates promotes blood flow and heart health. Rollerblading also engages your mind and improves your motor skills.
It is a low-impact cross-training option that works on multiple muscle groups and joints including your ankles.
It helps you avoid muscle overuse plus it’s really fun.
This is a low-impact type of martial arts that builds muscle strength, improves balance and total body awareness.
It involves slow, flowing movements that engage the parasympathetic nervous system. This helps your body calm down and recover from the stress of intense workouts and even stressful days.
A review found that tai-chi helps improve aerobic fitness in healthy adults.
A small study found that a 12-week tai-chi program reduced pain and stiffness among people with arthritis.
It’s also meditative which can help your mental health.
This doesn’t mean that you should avoid a passive rest day, especially if your body demands it. Passive recovery refers to the complete stopping of physical activity.
This is important for recovery from an injury or if you are at high risk of severe injury.
Taking a day or two completely off from your routine can be highly beneficial. It can also prevent burnout especially if you have been overtraining.
However, prolonged passive recovery can undo all the fitness progress you’ve made. Research shows that you can lose up to 30% of your typical training volume if you take a week off.
Active rest days help you avoid peaking your fitness levels. Regardless of your fitness levels, you should have a day of active recovery added to your routine to ensure you gain all the benefits from exercise.