Should you work out 7 days a week? Working out seven days a week—or exercising any number of days per week—is not a black and white issue. Many people have strong opinions about this subject, and there is conflicting information to be found everywhere. There are many factors that influence how much exercise you should do in a given week, including your age, your goals, if you’re recovering from an injury, and what types of exercise you engage in on different days. Some of the most passionate people about the amount of exercise per week will vehemently argue their stance without acknowledging yours; for example, if you love Pilates but hate running, your perspective on the frequency with which you should participate in these activities will be different from someone who loves running but hates Pilates. For this reason, it’s important to conduct your own research so that you can make an informed decision that works best for you as an individual.
Of course, the answer isn’t so cut-and-dried. Those who argue for seven-day training are just as passionate about their workouts as those who take a daily rest day. In many cases, people feel strongly about their preferred style because they’ve experienced it firsthand and know what it does for them. This is why when it comes to fitness—and beyond—it’s important to listen to all sides before coming to your own conclusion, rather than immediately jumping on board with whoever sounds the most convincing or confident in his or her stance.
Recovery is an essential piece of the puzzle in building muscle. It’s not during the workout that your muscles actually grow; it’s between them. This is why lifting expert Bret Contreras recommends taking at least one day of rest every seven to 10 days for recovery, as does trainer Chris Freytag. “When we exercise, we break down our muscles,” she says.”Then when we rest and recover, they repair and rebuild.” You can take off a full 24 or 48 hours between workouts if you’re feeling wiped out — or even just do some light exercise like walking if you’re still eager to get moving. According to fitness coach Julie Johnson, anywhere from three to 14 days of rest may be appropriate; it all depends on your fitness level.
It’s not clear if it’s necessary to take a rest day per se, at least when you’re running or doing other aerobic exercises. For example, Canadian marathoner Reid Coolsaet routinely runs up to 140 miles a week in the build-up to a race, and he typically does six of those on back-to-back days. (He also finds time for yoga classes and stretching work.) Similarly, fitness author Chris McDougall has written about how he ran every day for five straight years without any major problems.
If it’s still unclear whether or not you should take a rest day based on what we’ve discussed so far, listen to your body—do you feel fine with no recovery time between workouts? If so, keep it up! However, if you start feeling overly sore or fatigued after several consecutive days of working out, it might be a good idea to give yourself some rest. Or if you’re just starting out with exercise and an intensive workout routine sounds too daunting right now, join the club—you’d probably benefit from taking at least one rest day per week from the get-go.
It’s worth noting that many athletes who don’t take set rest days do incorporate easy recovery sessions between their hard workouts (this is called active recovery). Even though these aren’t complete days off from training, they may still be beneficial in terms of muscle recovery and injury prevention.
It’s not uncommon for people to think that they need to be working out seven days a week, but the truth is that you can’t expect your body to keep pushing without noticing any wear and tear.
But rest days don’t mean your fitness routine has to come to a standstill! For those who are used to working out every day, it might seem hard at first, but with the following tips, you can take the rest time you need while still keeping up with your fitness goals.
Do active recovery. Instead of heading straight for your bed after a few hours of lifting weights at the gym or running on a treadmill, choose something light for yourself—something that will help get your muscles moving and also provide some much-needed relief from heavy exercise. Consider going for an easy walk or bike ride, taking a yoga class, or swimming laps in a pool.”