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People who exercise regularly will attest: working out can become a habit. When it does, missing a day in the gym or the studio can feel awful. You want to look and feel your best, after all! That’s why it can be so easy to think rest days are counterproductive. Doesn’t skipping a day put a dent in gym gains? Isn’t it true that people who take rest days are more likely to miss their fitness goals?

The thought of a rest day might repulse you, but believe this: rest is just as crucial to your gains as working out. Without proper rest, you risk doing serious damage to your body in a whole host of ways! Overworking your body can lead to a weakened immune system, sleep difficulty, a decrease in strength, and injury. The fitness and medical communities agree on this.

Working out (especially strength training) is really the process of tearing your muscle fibers and then allowing your body to rebuild those muscle fibers to be even stronger for next time. The fiber damage is necessary for growth, but the repair doesn’t happen when you’re active. It occurs while you rest. If you don’t give your body time to rest, it won’t be able to repair your muscle fibers. That means you’ll plateau on your gains. Nobody wants that.

But rest days don’t have to be lounging on the couch and shoveling ice cream into your face. Light activity can be considered a “rest” when your normal activity levels are very high. Some exercise enthusiasts might be surprised to find that yoga is one of the best ways to rest on your off days. Not only does it offer the chance to stretch and lengthen muscle tendons can be shortened and cramped by more high-intensity exercise, but the gentle atmosphere and positive affirmations from the yoga instructor also help to ease the mind and release dopamine into your brain! After all, rest days should be about body and mind.

So, yeah, go hit that warrior pose on your off time! You might find that yoga’s benefits compliment your usual routine, making you faster, stronger, and more mentally prepared for your next hard day at the gym. Take care of your body and will take care of you!