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  • Writer's pictureTania Cucciniello

What Happens To Your Body When You Let It Rest (and When You Don’t).

If you’re someone who leads an active and healthy lifestyle which includes activities like going to the gym, playing sports, practicing yoga and jogging outside, then you know the importance of rest for recovery. Rest is important for results, in fact, it’s half of the equation! Many people who are dedicated to a gym routine often don’t like taking a rest day, they feel restless and they feel as if they are losing their gains by not working out. This is simply not true. You actually maximize your muscle strength and size by resting because this is the phase where the muscles can truly grow.

However, resting for one day of the week may also not be enough. It’s routine-rest that allows your muscles to rebuild and grow safely. Trying to incorporate a rest per day allows muscles to recover, adapt and become stronger. Another major benefit to resting once a day means your nervous system has a chance to unwind; not only from working out but from our work schedules, running errands, doing chores and all the information entering our brains via the web. All this activity has a tremendous effect on our nerves and can determine how we hold on to stress and how easily we can release it, physically and mentally.

When should I rest my body from exercise?

Some studies are starting to find that it can take 72 hours/3 days between strength training sessions for full muscle recovery. Other research also finds that a recovery period could be anywhere from two days to up to a week, depending on the type of exercise. You read that correctly, up to one week, especially if the exercise was done until muscle failure. This causes complete depletion and that is the point… but your body will not be ready to go back and do the same thing with the same amount of intensity and energy the next day. It can’t and it shouldn’t; it is only the mind that needs convincing. However if the mind is still pushing the body to go, go, go… soon the body will tell you no, no, no.

Main signs your body needs rest

  • Your resting heart-rate is elevated.

  • You're always tired.

  • You're easily irritated and moody. (Exercise is supposed to make you a happy and positive person filled with energy, right? Not if it doesn’t have the resources to fuel you anymore).

  • You've had a few bad workouts in a row.

  • You're not getting any stronger.

  • You're always sore.

  • You're stiff- All. The. Time. (Your back aches to pick something up or your knees crack all the time… Once again, if exercise is supposed to make you strong, then why can’t you perform simple bending movements outside the gym in your everyday life?)

The answer: you are stressing your body too often.

What happens to your joints if you don't let them rest?

As established, without proper rest, your joints and muscles don't have the necessary time to rebuild and rejuvenate, which can cause cortisol levels to become chronically elevated.

When cortisol levels are constantly elevated it signals your body to be stressed and to keep stress, which can cause reverse effects like bloating and more belly fat. It can also signal your body to be in a constant state of inflammation in order to protect the joints- this is the body's defense mechanism. It often occurs with overuse of the joints and leads to major injuries.

Injuries to the joints from overuse include ruptured tendons and ligaments, constant inflammation, fractures, broken bones, partial or complete loss of joint function cause by progressive joint destruction.

Conversely: What happens to your joints if you don't exercise?

If you don't exercise, your bones become more brittle and likely to fracture. Exercise helps keep your joints as flexible as possible. This allows you to continue your daily tasks by yourself as much as possible.

Exercising is important for flexibility and strength. When you have more muscle, you'll burn more calories at rest because muscle burns more energy than fat. Additionally, when you feel refreshed, you'll be more likely to stick to your exercise routine. However, this is not the debate today; the point of this article is to remind over-active people to rest.

How do you rest your body? Post-exercise rest can include:

  • Stretching

  • Taking a hot shower

  • Using a sauna

  • Performing a cool-down routine or yoga routine

  • Icing sore joints

  • Simply relaxing/breathing lying down

  • Taking a few days off from strenuous activity

  • SLEEPING (the best type of rest and the proper amount of sleep is 7-9 quality sleep hours per night).

  • Taking naps (Only 20-30 minutes is needed as anything longer can make you more drowsy).

  • Getting a massage (Massages of minimum 1 hour are said to be as regenerating as a full night’s sleep. Massages are even being coined as “the new happy hour”. Count me in!)

Resting your body post-workout and taking days off is physically and mentally necessary to give muscles time to repair, rebuild and strengthen. It will give time to re-wire the nervous system and tell it to relax and then all the happy hormones get a chance to come out to play. Finally, rest will prevent overuse of your joints and to maintain their structural integrity.

If you're interested in a massage, please visit my Services page.

If you're interested at a more in-depth look at all the tissues in our body, what they're made of and how they function, check out my e-book Connect: A Practical Guide to Fascia.

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