Should You Work Out Every Day?
ONCE YOU’VE CAUGHT the workout bug, you might find it hard to slow down and take a break. Maybe you’re training for a race or another performance goal, or maybe you finally hit your stride when it comes to consistent fitness and don’t want to lose that momentum. There are lots of reasons you might be tempted to exercise every. Single. Day.
How many days you work out every week should depend on your goals, among other factors. The “no days off” mentality has its consequences, and we’re not only talking about missing out on gains you were hoping to make by keeping your foot on the gas. Recovery is necessary for your body and mind. Skipping rest days is not only likely to put you in a world of hurt down the road (literally, you’ll up your injury risk without a day off)—after long enough, your all-or-nothing lifestyle could put you at the risk of burning out, too.
So, what are you to do when it comes to your training schedule? The solution isn’t straightforward, but as long as you keep some guidelines about intensity and active recovery in mind, best practices are fairly simple to follow. Below, learn more on how to find the sweet spot in your fitness frequency without sabotaging yourself in the process.
Is Working Out Every Day Safe?
While there are some subtleties when it comes to constructing your fitness program, the question of whether planning the same type of dedicated workout every single day is a simple one to answer.
“Is it a great idea? No!” says Kurt Ellis, C.S.C.S., owner and coach at Beyond Numbers Performance. “[That’s] mainly because you want to provide your body with the rest needed in order to adapt to training.” That adaptation is the whole point, according to Ellis, who explained previously that “allowing muscle groups to repair and rebuild after intense workouts is key for growth.”
Balancing a routine means managing the load you’ll take on over a period of time. You need to think about how much good stress—or the level of effort needed to induce changes—you’re aiming for without going so hard that you actually do more harm than good, he explains. There are some key indicators that you’ve found that balance, according to Ellis: You’re getting stronger workout by workout without nagging ailments and you’re excited to train, day in and out.
How Much You Should Exercise
Generally, the minimum amount of training you should aim for is 75 minutes of vigorous activity, 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (walking, biking), or an equivalent combination of the two every week, according to CDC recommended guidelines. The guidelines also recommend that two or more days feature muscle-strengthening activities, like weight training.
What’s considered moderate or vigorous will be individual to each person. Factors such as your current fitness level, training age (how long you’ve been exercising), and any pre-existing injuries or conditions can all impact this intensity benchmark, says Ellis.
That means that like all guidelines, you can use them as a starting point. Hitting the exact number, however, is less important than aiming to get as close as you can within your own circumstances and ability.
The Pros and Cons of Working Out Every Day
When you think about prioritizing movement every day, it’s clear that in theory it’s not the worst idea in the world. Maintaining an active lifestyle is an important factor for quality of life and longevity, too.
Taking your workout habit to the extreme and training every day, however, is a different story. There are factors to consider when you determine what your schedule is going to look like, and how you’ll be able to handle the load.
Pro: Training Can Boost Your Mood
“Some people train daily as a means of relieving stress,” says Ellis. There is some science that backs up the idea that exercise can help to manage stress: Regular activity releases feel-good chemicals, or endorphins, as well as distract you from everyday stress and worry, according to the Mayo Clinic. Just five minutes of aerobic exercise may have anti-anxiety effects, per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Pro: Consistency Helps to Form Healthy Habits
While it can sometimes be difficult to kickstart a fitness routine and actually stick with it, once you find a schedule that works for you, it can be hard to remember a time when you didn’t prioritize your workouts. Consistency, no matter what your health or performance goal may be, is the first step in making a routine work for you.
Con: You Might Up Your Injury Risk
Simply put, the more you exercise, the greater your risk of getting hurt. That’s just math. But it’s more than that. Working out every day—especially engaging in the same types of workouts that target the same muscle groups—means you’re stressing your muscles and joints and not giving them time to rest and recover. Fatigue can lead to sloppy form and overcompensation, which can led to injuries. “Incorporating rest days can help to mitigate injuries,” says Ellis. If you push too hard, eventually you might break.
Con: You Put Yourself at Risk of Overtraining
Double the workouts doesn’t mean double the results. Working out every day and exercising too hard can cause overtraining, “which leads to chronic [physical] fatigue, mental fatigue, and an overall decrease in performance,” says Ellis.
What to Consider If You Really Want to Exercise Every Day
In some cases, you might be able to justify having something on your fitness calendar every day. “Depending on the individual, the intensity of their training and the purpose of their training, then it is possible to work out every day,” Ellis says. When he says that, however, the key is how you define a “workout.”
When you think about what you count as a workout, you might imagine that it has to take place in a gym, there’s set amount of mileage you’re covering on a run or some other set of factors. If you draw a distinction between “activity” and “exercise” and give both value within your training plan, you can expand your calendar. Activity can be routine movement (walking the dog, raking leaves in your yard, taking the stairs at work, etc.), while exercise is likely more prescriptive (going on a run, taking a strength training class).
Both have their place, but if your goal is about longevity and “being able train consistently, indefinitely,” you’ll need to strike a balance between tough workouts, active recovery and true rest days, says Ellis.
So, if you want to remain active on most days, keep the following advice in mind.
Manage Your Training Intensity
That might look like a weekly fitness routine that includes two high-intensity days, three moderate intensity days, one low-intensity day, and one rest day. Rather than thinking about your low-intensity day as something that needs to take place in a gym, you can slot in a brisk walk or some other activity that still gets you moving without putting as much strain on your body.
Don’t Skip Warmups or Cooldowns
“Proper warm up and cool down protocols can help in mitigating injury by prepping the body for activity and decompressing from activity,” says Ellis.
Not sure exactly what that might look like? Give this warmup a try before your next training session. When you’re finished, run through this cooldown routine.
Diversify Your Workouts
Introducing variety to your workout plan won’t only keep things feeling fresh to prevent boredom—you can can also help to combat fatigue as you toggle between techniques and muscle groups.
This won’t necessarily be the best path forward if you’re training for a specific performance goal or sport. You’ll want a periodized plan in that case, which will lead you up to peak performance for your race or PR attempt. But if general health is your main objective, you can try out multiple styles of workouts without sweating the details too much. The end goal, in that case, is quality movement.
Take Recovery Seriously
If you struggle with taking a day off because you don’t want to fall behind, consider looking at your rest and recovery as another essential aspect of your training rather than a day off. Even though you’re not taking on the same strain as the days you’re performing specific routines, you can still focus on stretching and mobility work, taking time to get massages or other services, or meditating.
And remember: Even if you’re not moving your body, that doesn’t mean that it’s not working to continue making adaptations to all the workouts you had put in throughout the rest of your week.
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