When not to exercise


01st August 2017

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Here’s a secret that few trainers will tell you: rest is actually as important as exercise. In fact, you could consider resting as part of your weekly workout. This doesn’t mean that spending days on the sofa will make you as fit as cycling a few miles, but it does bear consideration once you get into the habit of exercising. Rest days are vital when exercise is part of your lifestyle.

A lot of people feel guilty if they don’t get their workout in. That’s fine if that is a positive motivation for you. But it can work against you if it means you go to the gym when you really shouldn’t: if you have anything contagious, flu, fever or other obvious signs of illness. When you’re sick, you don’t need to stress the body. Rest will get it back to its normal strength. You also shouldn’t exercise when injured: I’ve seen people working out with casts on arms and legs. That’s OK, but remember that your body is repairing itself during the healing process so it’s important to keep exercise to a lower level than you might otherwise. Like most things in life, we grow through controlled stress and that includes muscles, aerobic fitness and flexibility.

Beginners to exercise can feel sore after weight training, yoga or running – basically anything they weren’t doing before. Sometimes stiffness and pain after exercise can be classified as DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness). This is a normal event that means you’ve pushed yourself a bit: the symptoms of pain or soreness should subside in a day or so. You should continue to exercise as normal. After all, DOMS is the pain you get from having achieved something that you may not have done before.

Research with women rowers shows that those who rest sufficiently between hard sessions of training have better bone health than those who don’t http://www.fasebj.org/content/31/1_Supplement/1036.11.abstract?sid=73eff36c-c07a-4f4a-8b16-f3c6be165dfc. Play hard, work hard, you might be tempted to say, but maybe you should add ‘rest hard’. We do need to build just as we need to rest, and that also applies to our brains. One study http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1745691612447308 suggests that when we’re idle, our brain is repairing itself. Just as total rest or total exercise is not ideal, get that balance and all will be well.

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