Fitness & Training, Strength fitness

Why should you include rest days in your exercise programme?

You have created an incomparable exercise programme with targeted and progressive sessions adapted to your objectives, but have you thought of including rest days? Rest is an integral part of sports performance: during breaks your body recovers and, despite appearances, you continue to progress. Find out how to pace your exercise sessions and rest in order to optimise your training. 

Why is rest important when doing exercise?

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It is important to observe rest periods, whatever the sport practised and whatever the level of the athlete. Numerous scientific studies demonstrate the link between rest and sports performance. Indeed, resting between training sessions has many benefits:

  • Rest allows the muscle fibres damaged during physical activity to repair themselves between training sessions, the rest period to be observed being directly linked to the intensity of the effort made. 
  •  Resting times are particularly productive when you practice weight training with the objective of gaining weight: in the anabolic phase, the body draws proteins from the absorbed nutrients to cause the muscles to gain volume. 
  • A period without intense activity gives the body the opportunity to replenish its energy stock, in parallel with a balanced diet and good sleep. 
  • Resting helps to prevent injuries. 
  • By observing days of rest between your exercise sessions, you avoid the phenomenon of overtraining, characterised by extreme nervous and muscular fatigue. 

The different types of rest to be included in your exercise programme

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There are 2 main types of rest that you can integrate into your exercise programme. In addition to these rest periods, make sure that you get a good night’s sleep, for example by taking naps of no more than 30 minutes, as well as a full night’s sleep, because muscles regenerate particularly well during sleep. A good diet also contributes to muscle recovery.

Active rest: continue exercising without strain

Rest is said to be active when it involves a simple slowing down of activity. For active rest days, do only moderate-intensity exercises such as gentle cardio, brisk walking, swimming… These low-intensity workouts help to activate blood circulation, facilitating the elimination of toxins and improving the distribution of nutrients absorbed from the diet.

Passive rest: stretching and interruption of practice

As for passive rest, it is a question of interrupting all sports practice to give your body time to recharge its batteries. During this period, you can however do some stretching to relax and to promote muscular recovery.  You can also take advantage of this time to do breathing exercises.

How do you integrate rest days into your exercise programme?

These tips can be used as a guide to plan rest days in your exercise programme according to the intensity of your workouts and the activities you practice:

  • After an intense workout, the body needs about 48 hours for nervous recovery. 
  • Muscle recovery is a process that requires between 48 and 72 hours of inactivity.
  • In your schedule, plan at least 1 day off every 2 or 3 days.
  • In order not to lose the benefits of your training, do not plan more than 2 consecutive days of rest.

With these tips in mind, you should be able to adapt your training schedule to add rest days dedicated to muscular or nervous recovery. Depending on your objectives and your level of fatigue, you can choose between  passive or active recovery. In any case, you will need to extend the rest period in case of pain, severe fatigue or, of course, injury. You now have all you need to know to establish your exercise programme in a balanced way between activity and rest.

Check out our Fitness & Training page for more advice.