Doing less may actually help you do more in the gym. After completing a bout of intense physical exercise, fitness experts recommend that you rest for 48 hours before working out again. But it's not just a chance to relax and catch up with friends. An every-other-day workout routine is actually a way to foster better health and improve your muscular development.
Increased Muscle Strength
Your muscles rebuild and grow stronger during the rest period and not during the actual workout, exercise physiologist Pete McCall tells "Men's Fitness" magazine. And once you've exercised, your body remains in muscle-building mode for 48 hours, further highlighting the need to take a break and allow your body to go through its natural processes. Instead of working out every day like some athletes do, exercising "three times a week is the most effective way to gain muscle," certified strength and conditioning specialist Alwyn Cosgrove notes to "Men's Health" magazine.
Protection of Muscle Fuel
Your body requires calories for energy to build and repair your muscle tissues, as well as carbohydrates to refuel your muscle's glycogen stores. If you're working out daily and not giving your body a period of rest between exercise days, you run the risk of running a deficit and constantly robbing your body of the important substances it needs to rebuild, thus potentially slowing your muscle gains. After all, your body's ability to store certain exercise-critical substances, such as glycogen, are finite. In fact, athletes who exercise intensely every day may even benefit from taking an entire week off to help their body stock up on important fuel.
Improved Muscle Healing
Delayed onset muscle soreness typically kicks in the day after you exercise. Its causes may include muscle damage -- working out involves numerous microscopic tears to muscle tissue -- and exercise-induced inflammation. Taking a break and resting is the best way to help your body heal and reduce inflammation, reports Stony Brook University. Constantly working out your inflamed, damaged muscle tissues can just delay the healing process.
Improved Immune System Strength
While moderate, limited levels of exercise, such as jogging and swimming, may improve the strength of your immune system, the opposite is true when it comes to intense exercise, such as endurance running and weightlifting. For example, a 1995 study in the "International Journal of Sports Medicine" found that athletes who did rigorous weight training experienced a 40 percent decrease in immune system killer cell activity compared to pre-exercise levels. Additionally, the American Council on Exercise notes that the general stress of working out can suppress your immune system by releasing chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol into your system. Giving your body a rest day between days of intense exercise can help it recover and rebalance itself, easing some of the strain on your immune system.
- University of Michigan Medical Center: Resistance/Strength Training
- Men's Health: 7 Muscle-Building Mistakes to Avoid
- Men's Fitness: Exercise Recovery and Losing Muscle
- Men's Health: Inside the Muscle Laboratories
- Men's Fitness: 10 Ways to Lose Muscle
- Stony Brook University: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
- American Council on Exercise: Can Exercise Reduce Your Risk of Catching a Cold?
- International Journal of Sports Medicine: The Acute Immune Response to Exhaustive Resistance Exercise
- American Journal of Physiology: Glycogen Branches Out - New Perspectives on the Role of Glycogen Metabolism in the Integration of Metabolic Pathways
Joshua Duvauchelle is a certified personal trainer and health journalist, relationships expert and gardening specialist. His articles and advice have appeared in dozens of magazines, including exercise workouts in Shape, relationship guides for Alive and lifestyle tips for Lifehacker. In his spare time, he enjoys yoga and urban patio gardening.