How Long Should You Really Rest Between Workouts?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
We always talk about the importance of rest when it comes to your exercise routine. Your body needs that time to recover, and your overall health and fitness level will benefit from non-exercise days. But how much rest is too much? Research from the University of Missouri at Columbia found that only two days of inactivity are enough to cause the size of fat cells to increase by 25%! Surprised? Although this research was done on animals, the same could be true for people.

I've often heard that after 48 hours, your fitness level can start to decrease. That's one reason why it is important to stay regular with your workouts. I find that if I take too many rest days in a row, it's harder to get myself back to the gym (both physically and mentally). And when I do make it back, that same workout is usually a little more challenging than it was just 3 or 4 days before.

Balance is essential. Too few rest days and you can end up overtraining and compromising your progress. Too many rest days and your progress can also be compromised. As a general rule, I recommend taking 1-2 days off each week from all activity, spacing those days over the week.

What do you think? With so much talk about the importance of rest, are you surprised about the possible effects of just a little too much? How do you incorporate rest days into your exercise routine?

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PATRICIAAK 3/23/2021
:) Report
DISCIPLINE1979 3/8/2021
I take Saturday and sunday off from the gym but I still walk my dogs or sometimes an easy jog with them on weekends. No weight training or anything challenging. That way Monday morning gym day is still fun as always Report
LOSER05 3/8/2021
Thanks Report
KATHYJO56 12/27/2020
Good information Report
1CRAZYDOG 11/14/2020
Thanks for this information. Report
Thanks for sharing Report
Thank you. Report
Personally I haven't reached the point of a planned routine. I was walking 5-6 days a week when my back went out. I had also been packing & lifting boxes for an upcoming move. While in PT recovery, my pelvis began to act up so am in a program to rebuild not just the core but had to rest the SI joint. Once moved, I hope to get back on a regular activity plan & rotate exercise types. Reading other comments it seems that I'll try for one full day off, & perhaps 1 or 2 other non-consecutive days as lighter activities. It depends on how my body reacts, particularly in light of my age & years of inactivity alternated with periods of regular movement. The fat cells growing & shrinking don't matter; I would like to completely kill them off. Perhaps in two years I'll be at my weight & fitness goal. Report
rest is good for the body to repair when you work out Report
Rest is my favorite part, but it's hard to get back into it. Report
Excellent info to keep in mind when scheduling workouts...Thx! Report
Our bodies do need rest!! Report
Just living is exercise enough for me. Report
Just living is exercise enough for me. Report
Thank you! Report
Excellent article. Good need-to-know information! Report
I do a split workout: walking and/or other cardio daily for six days, arms one day, core the next, legs the next and repeat the strength training once and then rest. On my rest day, if I feel stiff or sore from any of the week's previous workouts, I stretch or do a relaxing paced walk to get the kinks out but that's it--nothing pushing myself. Report
Thanks Report
Thanks Report
Since I am retired I don't think I need a rest day. I have plenty of free time each day so I believe I need some kind of exercise every day. Report
I move as much as I can. Commute and desk job sometimes makes it challenging. But I set a goal to do a minimum of 10 min each morning and shave a few minutes off my lunch and walk outside. Report
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are my workout days. Report
I really liked this article Report
I am going 4 to 5 times a week to the gym. On the second day I still do the circuit; I just decrease weight resistance and increase reps. I am finding it helps me to MOVE EVERY DAY! Due to sciatica and some other injuries; I have to be careful about what I do so I don't aggravate it. I am learning to work out in spite of it and am really enjoying toning up. I also try to do at least 30 mins of cardio (elyptical and tread mill at a run). We'll see. Keep on Moving Ya'll! Report
I don't really get this whole rest day thing... Aren't we supposed to get at least 30 mins of physical activity/exercises per day? or is that a myth they just plaster over everything? Report
I'm looking at it, this way - I'll rest two whole days and do next to nothing. I'll give what muscles I've trained a day or two off before going again. It depends on what I do for cardio how much and what kind of rest I'll give myself. If I walk (Particularly if I forget to stretch afterwards,) I'll give myself a day (or two.) Right now, my strength/toning regimen goes: M: UpBod, W: Core, Th: UpBod, F: Lower body. I think that's fair. ;) Report
It sounds good to me, possible one day some weeks and two days other weeks. I like to exercise when I feel up to it, and for arthritis , its pretty much essential, unless I want to be totally dependent on NSAIDS and PAIN KILLERS.. for which I choose neither on to be dependent on. I would rather use a heating pad, and stick to my anti inflammatory food consumption, and exercise !! Report
my question is how do we know which is to much exercise and not enough when at my job im on my feet like all day i get at least 10,000 steps alone at work and i don't know what is the best type of exercise to do before i work i most usually work from 12:30-9:30 sunday - thursday my lunch around 4-5 usually what do you recomend any suggestions? Report
Katajojo, thank you for your explanations of the biochemial tides and processes in the human body. Especially the point about the interaction of a carb-laden bedtime snack with human growth hormone.
I find that my reading of the article is that a person should not rest for 48 hours straight; the two days of rest during the week really ought to be separated by at least one day.
I myself take Thursdays and Sundays off from what I call exercise, and I find that Fridays and Mondays are easier than Tuesdays and Saturdays. Report
well, I am a biochemist and I don't know what metabolic process demands 48 hours recovery. The body's 8 - 9 hour sleep at night is all that's really needed to recover and build muscle. Growth hormone is produced 90 minutes after we fall asleep, and then for the rest of the 6 hours it breaks down fat and builds muscle. As long as you don't eat any carbohydrate at least three hours before bedtime (carbohydrates prevent growth hormone release), and as long as you get 8 - 9 hours of sleep at night (the growth hormone recovery pathway requires this amount of sleep) there's no reason you can't exercise daily. Our ancestors worked daily in the fields, hunted, etc. etc. and our bodies were made to MOVE MOVE MOVE. There's no biochemical reason I know of that a person needs to rest more than the normal 8 - 9 hours at night. Resting 48 hours has always been a strange notion to me. Maybe it's for those people who don't get a good night's sleep. Well those people probably shouldn't be working out anyway. So, as long as you eat right, get a good night's sleep, and train within your body's maximum physical capacity, you should be able to work out or train daily. Caio. Report
I don't do well with breaking the pattern, so my rest days aren't sedentary. I like to do 'active leisure' things like walking & gentle yoga practices, instead of Ashtanga yoga, cardio machines, or weight lifting. I still get the benefits of activity, but a different way of moving and lower intensity. Report
Sunday is a good rest day for me too. Sunday's routine is always so much different than the rest of the week it just makes sense to me that this would be my body's day off. Report
I am trying to build a routine in my fitness plan but I also suffer from fibromyalgia with unpredictable chronic fatigue and pain which frequently interferes with my activity levels. Still, I do believe that 2 days between activity causes fat to increase - I actually feel "fatter" when I've not worked out. I had always that it was mental but I see there is an actual physiological effect on the body. I will plan my rest days and follow them so I will be more motivated about building a stronger routine to workout. Report
I think resting a day between strength training is a good idea to give muscles a chance to repair (esp for us newbies). With cardio, I think it depends on how you feel. Sometimes I walk (walk at home type) several days in a row, but then will take a day off if I'm starting to have pain in my knees. I have multiple knee issues and was told by an ortho doc. to let my pain be my guide (and avoid high impact exercises). Report
I do some form of cardio every single day--7 days a week. Keeps my heart healthy & my body energized! I add weight lifting every other day--M, W, I do take rest days between lifting.

When I workout daily I feel better--physically I have more energy and my joints ache less, I get fewer colds & headaches, and I sleep better at night...emotionally I feel on a more even-keel after a good workout...and mentally I feel super-positive! No more antidepressants!

Do what YOU have to do to feel healthy--and exercise as much or as little as suits your life....nobody else lives your life--only YOU do! :) Report
This is all dependant on what kind of exercise your doing.. some professional weight lifters will tell you you need 2 weeks to recover from truly heavy deadlifts a week at least from heavy squats and that any exercise between that time just prolongs your recovery, yet many studies show those who work out for less than a year doing cardio workouts perhaps running will loses 100% of there built up endurance with as little as a 30 days rest and that cardiovascular workouts need to be done more regularly.. this post really does not define the target goal of the person or the type of workout this rest schedule is suggested for. Report
I find this article VERY true.. I didn't do my morning walk over the 4 day holiday weekend and today when I started my routine it was harder I didn't feel like doing it as long as I usually do :( Report
Building up the number of minutes working out everyday. I know I feel better when I do "something" everyday even if only walking for 20-30 minutes. Report
For the first time this week a took a break day. I work 2 jobs where I am on my feet constantly and do 70-80 minutes of cardio on top of that per day. Monday I decided that one day a week would be a good thing. I almost went crazy not running. I did walk my dogs and worked both jobs - 6am-7pm so it's not like i sat on my bum all day :) I'm always worried that taking a day off might break the good habbits. Report
I definitely agree. I recently had a migraine for almost a week and I needed to start my exercise routine over because I lost so much stamina. Report
This is defenitly an issue for me. I would only take off is I just did not have enough time. Those days became fewer because I just took the time. Then I would take the day off if I was just sore from working out so many days in a row. Now I work out in 4 day stretches and take the 5th day off. I also alternate with upper body and abs and lower body and core. Today is my second day so I concentrated on legs and lower back and core excersizes tomorrow will be arms and abs. I know that abs and core are pretty much the same thing. When I do core I do stregnth training which works out my entire midsection. My ab workouts concentrate on just my abs. Report
I take one day off a week from the gym, but I do cardio every day, whether at the gym or walking outdoors. Report
Unless injured, one day rest is a good thing for me.... more, and I start to slide! Report
I rest at least 2 days between weights, but do cardio of some kind almost every day - even if it's only a short walk. Report
I agree, too much of reat takes me back to lethargy more, i take one day off still keep me physcially evry active that day also. Report
I rarely take a day off of some kind of exercise. I only do weight training 3 or 4 days a week but always try to find time for at least a bike ride, other cardio or at least walking. Report
I try not to have days where I do nothing at all, because it makes it so hard to get back to it the next day. I have a light warmup/stretch routine that I do for 20-30 minutes just about every day. On "rest" days, I do that and maybe a light walk. If I'm away from home and can't workout, I get at least a short walk. That keeps me in the routine and keeps me feeling energized. I've scheduled my strength training so that I have at least a day between upper body workouts and at least a day between lower body workouts. Report
I always take Friday's off for sure. I don't know why I chose Friday's I guess because it is the end of the long week so I just would rather go home and relax and maybe go out for a healthy dinner. I usually take a nother day off during the week and it tends to seem to fall on either Sunday or Tuesday. Report
Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays are my "hard days" cardio and strength training, then Thursdays are a short cardio (45 mins instead of an hour). Saturdays and Tuesdays I do a fun/relaxin like a leisurely walk or some yoga/extra stretches. Sundays are my off days. Report
I usually take at least a day off per week (sunday), but sometimes even on Sunday we take a bike ride or go for a walk. Of course, my workouts aren't always intense either. My goal is 45 minutes 5 days a week, but I usually end up working out doing something on Saturdays as well. Just depends on how my week ends up. Report