When it comes to fitness, there's a lot of emphasis on the workouts themselves - lifting weights, perfecting form, and using supplements. However, recovery days are just as important to overall fitness, and they’re often overlooked.
Taking a recovery day allows your body to rest and refuel after the hard work at the gym, but it also helps with muscle growth by improving your insulin sensitivity. This means that taking one or two days off from the gym per week is good for your body, including stretching, eating, and sleeping. Recovery days don't mean doing nothing at all, but rather switching to some low-key physical activities that will get you moving and raise your heart rate without overworking the muscles.
The term 'off days' doesn't sit well with some fitness enthusiasts, as it implies doing nothing at all. Instead, they prefer to call them 'recovery days', which changes the way we think of the day. Regardless of how you structure your gym schedule, you should aim to have about 2-3 recovery days every week.
In this article, we’ll dive into why you should take recovery days and some of the best activities and exercises for active recovery.
Why You Should Take Recovery Days
Muscles are torn down during hard workouts, then grow back bigger and stronger over the next few days. If we don't give our muscles time to recover, not only will they not get stronger, but you could seriously injure yourself. That's why it's essential to have recovery days in your workout schedule.
Rest days allow your muscles to repair and grow back stronger than before, leading to more significant progress in your fitness journey. Additionally, rest days help you avoid overtraining, which can lead to injuries and burnout. Overtraining happens when you don't allow your muscles enough time to recover from your workouts, and you keep pushing yourself to do more. This can lead to fatigue, lack of progress, and even muscle loss.
Best Activities and Exercises for Active Recovery
Now that we've established why recovery days are essential, let's get to the 'how.' Here are some of the best activities and exercises for active recovery that will help you stay fit without putting too much stress on your muscles.
Hiking is an excellent way to stay fit, enjoy nature, and get some fresh air. Almost all weightlifters, bodybuilders, and athletes write off walking as being too easy. Yet there are many physical benefits such as improved cardiovascular health and reduced risk of injury. Walking can also be helpful in preventing mental burnout. Regular, brisk walking is great for your mental and physical health. Studies show that people who walk regularly are 39% less likely to die, and they also tend to be in a better mood!
You may not like doing cardio, but it's good for a number of reasons. Cardiovascular exercise can include anything that raises your heart rate, from walking to running, from rowing to riding a bike, or from doing yard work. In essence, simply exercising doesn't mean you should avoid cardio. We recommend that you do something active on days where you can't make it to the gym. Maybe instead of driving, consider biking to work.
Yes, you read that right: we said yoga. Yoga is not only about stretching but can also be excellent for cardio. It can be a very meditative exercise, requiring intense focus to hold poses for a certain period of time. It's a great low-impact aerobic activity for mental health, allowing you to get some fresh air and connect with others in your community.
Recovery days are essential for your overall fitness and wellbeing. They allow your body to repair and grow back
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