3 Key Reasons You Shouldn’t Exercise Every Day

Alyssa Atkinson

Your strict routine might be hurting your progress.


Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

I know as well as anyone how good it feels to complete a workout. You get to de-stress in a productive way, you feel a sense of pride in accomplishing a hard task, and you receive an amazing boost of endorphins.

However, even the most enthusiastic exercisers should take a break once in a while. For example, when I was in college, I was running at a high level and trying to achieve some pretty lofty athletic goals. Still, I took a complete rest day at least a few times a month.

And while it can be easy to get caught thinking that a day off from working out will ruin your progress, cause you to miss out on fitness gains, or negatively impact your mental and physical health, I can assure you that is not the case.

In fact, there are a number of powerful benefits to be gained from taking a rest day that will actually bring you closer to achieving your health and fitness goals. Thus, here are three reasons you shouldn’t exercise every single day, along with some signs to look out for that might be telling you it is definitely time for a break.

1. You Will Give the Following a Boost

It may seem counterintuitive, but your muscle mass, among other physical fitness metrics, actually grow during times of rest. According to Women’s Health:

“Strength, power, speed, and muscle mass actually increase during resting periods. Technically it’s known as “specific adaptations to imposed demands” …if you go HAM the entire time and don’t allow your body to “catch up” you could find you don’t progress as quickly as those who are savvy enough to incorporate rest days.”

Therefore, if you are looking to become a stronger, more powerful athlete, or just trying to boost your overall fitness and physique, pushing hard every single day without rest will actually get in the way of that. Instead, work some easy days into your routine so you can reap the benefits of the days when you are working extremely hard. And, if you are especially fatigued, consider taking a complete rest day rather than just an easy day.

2. You Will Refresh Your Mind

Everyone focuses on the physical aspects of exercise. However, we often fail to acknowledge how impactful the mind can be as well. Sometimes, it can be even stronger than the body in propelling us forward towards our big goals and aspirations.

For instance, one of my best collegiate track races occurred when I was completely dialed in both mentally and physically. I truly believed I was going to break five minutes in the mile, I stayed mentally engaged the entire race, and then I finally achieved that goal.

Likewise, when I was mentally drained from a rough week of finals, I crashed and burned in my race that weekend. While I was physically fit enough to do well, I just could not stay engaged in the race, and my performance suffered immensely. I knew that in order to do better in my next race, I needed to take a break to recharge my mind.

According to psychologist Cristina Domínguez, who counsels clients on sports performance:

“If you’re typically someone who gets excited to break a sweat and you find that drive has evaporated, that’s probably another indicator you’ve gone overboard and would benefit from some time off.”

It might be difficult to take a few days off in the moment. But, by focusing on your mental health, you will ultimately benefit far more from your future workouts, because you will actually find joy in doing them, rather than pushing through them and feeling miserable the whole time.

3. You Will Decrease Your Risk of This

By working rest days into your training routine, you can decrease your risk of getting injured. This one is extremely important, especially since an injury can keep you from working out for months if it’s severe enough. When you push through too much fatigue when your body is crying out for rest, that could be a recipe for disaster.

In fact, Women’s Health states that:

“There is an increased likelihood of injury as fatigue sets in…although your muscles may “feel” ready to train, your central nervous system might be pretty fatigued leading to bad movement patterns and this can increase the chance of injury.”

While there will always be some risk of injury when engaging in any exercise program, you can minimize your chances of getting injured by being smart, listening to your body, increasing your load gradually, and taking a rest day when necessary.

How to Know When to Take a Rest Day

It can be hard to pinpoint exactly when you need to take a day completely off from working out, but there are some common signs to look out for.

These include:

  • Difficulty waking up
  • Unable to sleep
  • Higher stress levels than normal
  • Low or no motivation
  • Inability to concentrate

Of course, this list is by no means comprehensive. However, it is a good starting point. Along with these signs, perhaps the most important indicator is how you are feeling on a given day. Listen to your body, and if you are really on the fence about whether or not you should exercise, you can always play it safe and take a rest day.

Final Thoughts

If you have been feeling physically fatigued day after day, consistently stressed out by the thought of exercising, or just completely burnt out, it might be time to give your body a rest.

Whenever I feel unmotivated to exercise for multiple days in a row, that’s usually a sign that I need to take a day off. When I listen to that signal, I always come back the following day feeling refreshed, recovered, and ready to hit it hard again.

By listening to your own body and giving yourself permission to take a day off when necessary, you’ll develop a healthy relationship with exercise, which will ultimately help you find your happiest self.

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Ohio U XC/Track alum. I love to run. I blog about food, health, fitness, lifestyle, etc. Personal Blog - nomeatfastfeet.com | Electrical and Computer Engineering Grad.

Raleigh, NC

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