Opinion | Remember rest days for healthy workout routine


Photo courtesy of Alex Williamson/Illinois Student Affairs

People working out at the lower level of the ARC on June 16, 2017. Columnist Aditya Sayal talks about how crucial rest is in bettering workouts.

By Aditya Sayal, Columnist

Like many, you may have a New Year’s resolution. However, these resolutions don’t always work out. For those prioritizing exercise, nevertheless, creating a workout schedule oftentimes forgoes rest days — forging ahead with intense workouts.

As Science Focus states, when you exercise, you divert blood from your liver and digestive system to your skeletal muscles. Then hormones within the body tell the body to convert fat into glucose, which provides energy, to reduce the pain you feel and improve your mood.

Through exercise, the muscles create microscopic tears within themselves and generate lactic acid. As you work out, this lactic acid builds up and causes the pH of the blood around the muscles to drop; this drop makes muscles unable to contract further.

For the replenishment of the pH levels and a better workout, one has to rest.

During this critical rest period, cells within the muscle tissue called fibroblasts repair and build up the muscle tissue and allow the muscles to replenish their stores of glycogen levels: a form of energy stored in the muscles. All of this helps the tissue heal and grow, resulting in stronger muscles.

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Even athletes take rest days. A great example is Olympian Ron Hill, a world-famous distance runner. Hill had noticed symptoms of overtraining, which included heavy and sore legs along with a weaker immune system. Despite finding a training regimen helping him compete, he often wondered if some of his substandard competitions were due to a lack of rest days.

Another professional athlete who enjoys rest days is tennis superstar Serena Williams. According to Aja Campbell, a strength and conditioning specialist, when Williams steps off the court, she begins her cool down and recovery process. In fact, Williams took off four months to give her body and mind some rest.

These rest days benefit the mind as well. During exercise, your mind is under high stress and resting relieves that pressure.

You should also take part in what’s known as active recovery.

Active recovery is a workout that involves performing low-intensity exercise following a strenuous workout. It allows the blood to keep flowing and helps the muscles recover and rebuild from intense physical activity. Ideally, on a rest day involving active recovery, the goal should be to find an activity that is low intensity and keeps your heart rate at 30-60% of your maximum heart rate. If you do not have a way to measure this, a good rule of thumb is to choose an activity where you are still able to hold a steady conversation.

Examples of this would be yoga, stretching, a light jog, casual walking and even low-intensity swimming. However, I would not recommend trying to hold a conversation while swimming.

Tremendous reasons to take rest days are to reduce the risk of injury, prevent muscle fatigue and improve performance for the next day of exercise and be able to get come back stronger.

Aditya is a junior in Business.

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