If you’re one of those people who needs all the help you can get enjoying your workouts, it can be hard to motivate yourself to work out twice a week, much less four or five times. By contrast, for some people, exercise addiction is a very real thing. But actually, there’s a pretty definitive number of days that you should be working out versus resting, at least once you’ve reached a high level of fitness. Cue the ever-important rest day.
It turns out, experts pretty much agree on the number of rest days people who are in good shape and exercising regularly should take: On average, you should be taking two days per week for rest and active recovery.
Two to three days of strength training
The magic formula, according to Noam Tamir, CSCS, founder of TS Fitness, tends to be three days of strength training, two days of cardio, and two days of active rest per week.
Those strength training days will be absolutely crucial for maintaining a healthy weight. In addition to forming and shaping a strong, sexy bod, adding muscle mass increases your resting metabolism — meaning, you burn more calories when you’re at home on your couch enjoying a good Netflix binge. If you’re not looking to add any noticeable muscle, you can theoretically strength train twice a week and make use of that third day for cardio, but we wouldn’t recommend skipping it altogether.
You can strength train in a variety of ways too. Lifting is an obvious option, but for those who are really looking for a leaner physique or who just hate lifting, Pilates and intense vinyasa yoga are also fabulous. Functional training, like rock climbing or rowing, also qualifies.
Just make sure to take a break between your strength training days. Most experts say that you need at least 48 hours for your muscles to recover. And in the meantime, there’s cardio!
two to three days of cardio
Cardio is undoubtedly important, not only for keeping your heart healthy but also for burning fat. Without getting too technical, you should aim to hit 85-100 percent of your target heart rate for roughly 15 minutes. You can calculate your max heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. So, if you’re 27, your max heart rate would be 193, and 85 percent of that would be 164.
You can get there with high-intensity interval training, long-distance running, Zumba, cardio kickboxing — whatever floats your boat.
Two Days of Active Rest
And finally, for one of the most important parts of your workout plan: active rest. Two days of your week should be fully focused on letting your muscles rebuild through gentle stretching, walking, restorative yoga, or foam rolling. By completing these kinds of workouts twice a week, you’ll be staying active and building flexibility all while chilling out.
The dangers of over-exercising
It’s important to take time off from your workouts if health is your overall goal. For one thing, over-exercise can lead to adrenal fatigue and other disorders, as exercise is literally stress for your body. Your adrenal glands respond to exercise by releasing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, and over time, not giving your adrenals a break can lead to tiredness, lethargy, and even thyroid problems.
And besides, it’s important to take a break MENTALLY from exercise. When you start to obsess about fitness is when a healthy habit turns into something more sinister. Do yourself a favor and take at least two days a week for rest or active recovery. Your body will thank you.
What’s your current weekly workout schedule? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know!
(h/t Self; photos via Getty)