By Brian Rigby, Clinical Nutrition Writer
Rest days are extremely important! If you exercise frequently or intensely, then at least once a week you should limit yourself to “non-exerting” (or less exerting) forms of physical activity, like an easy walk or yoga.
What happens if you don’t take a rest day is far worse than the loss of a single training day. During exercise, both cortisol and testosterone increase, which is normal and doesn’t cause a problem one day at a time. After a few days of exercise, though, cortisol starts to remain higher than normal and testosterone starts to dip lower than normal
Every day of exercise you add on after this drives cortisol higher and testosterone lower, altering what exercise physiologists call the “testosterone to cortisol ratio”, or T/C ratio for short.
We’re not 100% certain when “overtraining” happens, but we do know that it happens much more frequently (and perhaps solely) in people with a very low T/C ratio.
When overtraining sets in, you feel fatigued all the time, are prone to injury and illness, and stop making gains, whether you measure them in weight lost or performance gained. To overcome this slump, significant amounts of time off are required to let the body recover.
Moral of the story is this: Our body is amazing, but it needs rest!
4-6 days of alternating exercise, some of low intensity, with one dedicated rest day = Gains in strength, performance, and body composition. 7 days on with no rest days and few low intensity days = Losses in strength, performance, and body composition.
(PEERtrainer Note: Brian wrote this in response to a question we got in the PEERtrainer Leaders Group:
“Does anyone have something to share concerning working out? I walk/jog 3 miles a day, and work out 1 hour on my elliptical. Every other day I do weight training at the gym, and two days a week I do water aerobics. I have been doing this everyday since April first. I am sure there are many possible answers why today I woke up and I am dragging. I haven’t had this feeling in a long long time. Anyway, I started to think that maybe I should have a rest day in my regime. Any ideas or thoughts about this. I have lost 45 lbs since April first….have 55 to go….and I am 66 years old.
Do your body a favor and let it rest up frequently!