Once you get into the routine of exercising, it can be difficult to stop. You get almost addicted to that endorphin rush and feel like taking a day off is cheating or a sign you’re getting soft. Or maybe you worry that you’ll lose momentum and have trouble starting back up.
But listen up: You don’t have to go to confession, and you’re not weak. In fact, everyone needs time to recover, and taking a day off here and there will help you grow stronger.
“What leads to strength gains is recovery,” says Ann Wendel, a physical therapist and spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association. Rest days matter regardless of how long you’ve been working out.
“The experienced athlete or exerciser needs to take one rest day a week to minimize the risk of muscle fatigue, severe muscle soreness, injury, a suppressed immune system and loss of strength and performance, and to alleviate sleep disruption,” explains Beth Jordan, a certified personal trainer and spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise. If you just started exercising or are getting back to it, resting every third day is smart, Jordan adds.
And then there are times when your body is sending clear “don’t hit the gym today” signals. If you experience any of the following, it might be better to rest or do active recovery.