Whether your goal in exercise is to get stronger, improve endurance, break a personal record, increase function, manage weight, or feel your best, you’ll need to make rest and recovery part of your plan. Proper recovery allows time for your body to adapt, reach its goals, and keep your regimen more consistent. Whenever this necessary component gets overlooked, it increases the risk of injury and hinders muscle growth and overall progress. Even if you’re not an avid exerciser, you may be familiar with how massage, stretching, and foam rolling can help ease sore muscles, as well as ice and cold therapy can help reduce inflammation. Your rest and recovery shouldn’t stop there. We’ve compiled several more ways to optimize your rest days.

Proper Nutrition & Hydration

Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth, and carbohydrates are stored in muscle as glycogen and are necessary for energy, muscle repair, and overall performance. Incorporating both as a post-workout meal or snack will help with workout recovery. Talk with your doctor or a dietitian to personalize your post-workout nutrition. Dehydration can commonly occur with exercise, especially during long bouts of activity or in hot, humid weather. However, dehydration can greatly hinder muscle recovery. Stay hydrated before, during, and after exercise to assist in your rest and recovery regimen.

Active Rest

Rest days are part of a balanced workout schedule. As much as we might want to spend an entire rest day sitting on the couch, we should still limit our sedentary time. Unless you’re recovering from an injury or illness, active rest or recovery is more beneficial than a primarily inactive day. Active rest consists of light or low-intense movement that is less planned or regimented than typical exercise bouts. It can help with muscle flexibility and soreness, increases blood flow, and lowers lactic acid buildup, which will help keep your exercise routine more consistent (Healthline1). Light activities can include a leisurely walk or bike ride, stretching, or simple chores around the house.

Prioritize Sleep

Sleep affects every body system, so it certainly impacts the body’s ability to recover from exercise. Consistent sleep deprivation can lead to changes in hormone production and suppressed immune system function, which influences muscle recovery and performance. Inadequate or low-quality sleep also makes it harder to achieve a regular exercise habit due to lack of energy. While sleep needs vary for everyone, adults should aim for seven to nine hours each night (Cleveland Clinic2).

Listen to Your Body

Listening to your body is part of creating a lasting exercise habit. Sometimes, you need extra rest regardless of your exercise schedule. Maybe you had a week of interrupted sleep, stressful workdays, or an unexpected house project. Life can take a toll on our bodies and impact our workout routine. While some days you might be able to push through or adjust your workout, other days you might need to take it easy and rest altogether. Listening to your body’s cues will lower your risk of overuse or overtraining injuries and help you navigate the ebbs and flows of a lifelong active lifestyle.

Always consult with your physician before starting a new exercise program.

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