Anyone who works out knows ( or should know ) that taking the right amount of time to rest between workout sessions is a key part in attaining fitness goals. How many rest days one should take and the frequency of those days varies entirely based on the type of workout and fitness goals one has, but they are necessary for some form or other. There can be a bit of confusion about the meaning of the term “rest day” though. Some may take it to mean that on those days, no exercise activity should be done. This is a misconception, as it is actually not good to do nothing at all on rest days. There are actually some things that one can do on rest days that are beneficial and help speed up recovery time and attainment of results. Here are three examples of exercises that are great for rest days to help maintain, recover and move forward towards your goals.

1) Stretching

This is a MUST. Any kind of workout, fitness program or health goals can only stand to benefit from ample stretching, while only stands to lose if this key aspect of fitness is ignored. On rest days, it is particularly important to stretch and focus those stretches on the muscle groups which are sore or exhausted from previous workouts. It will help keep the blood flowing, minimise soreness, aid in rebuilding and of course – the obvious improvement of overall flexibility, which is crucial in avoiding injury.

2) Cardio

The main reason for a rest day is most commonly to allow time for muscles to rebuild after a session of hard work has exhausted them. Muscles are literally broken down by the body during hard exercise, which is why they can feel sore the following days, then rebuild themselves using a process known as muscle synthesis. There is one muscle, however, that never tires and never stops working. That muscle is the heart. Cardio exercise helps improve the strength and overall health of the heart. Frequent cardio is key in fitness goals that involve stamina, health, and weight loss. While it’s proper to avoid heavy lifting or resistance training to exhausted muscles on a rest day, it is also helpful to get some cardio in. This doesn’t have to be an intense cardio session. It can be light as long as it is enough to increase the heart rate and break a sweat. There are plenty of cardio type exercise activities, so choose one that isn’t too hard on the muscles that you are resting, but definitely gets some form of it in on rest days, and you’ll notice the benefits rather quickly. Others will notice too.

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3) Meditation

In a world which focuses so heavily on physical appearance and health of the body, there is another muscle that often gets overlooked in the fitness world: the mind. Okay, so maybe the mind is not a muscle, but like a muscle, it gets stronger with use and weaker with neglect. A person is only as strong as their weaknesses, so all the strength in the world can fail if the mind directing it is not also cared for and finely tuned. Meditation is a great exercise for rest days, as not only is it helpful for relaxing and resting, but it will sharpen your mind, increase memory, elevate your mood, insight introspection, creativity, problem-solving, reduce stress, level blood pressure, slow aging, and a whole slew of other benefits. Some are intimidated by the difficulty that meditation is said to encompass, but it’s not nearly as difficult to do as you may think. There are tons of online classes, schools, teachers, books and tutorials on how to meditate. Pick this skill up and practice it on rest days and you’ll be glad you did.