82.1 million Americans from ages six and up don’t exercise.
Part of that reason could involve not utilizing rest and recovery. Although pushing your strength to its limits is critical to your fitness results, so is exercise recovery.
That includes sleep. Though it sounds counterintuitive, getting enough good sleep can really boost your athletic performance.
Keep reading to learn more. Below, detail five benefits of sleep for exercise recovery. Then, you can relax knowing that a rest day is actually good for you!
Why does Exercise Recovery Work?
Muscle microtraumas cannot recover unless they undergo a healing period. During this healing period, they grow and learn how to endure the strain of exercise and get better at healing
Many people engage in active recovery, which generally involves activities that engage muscle groups during a rest day. These activities may include:
Many believe that active recovery is better than complete rest, inactivity, or sitting still. It can help muscles recover and repair after strenuous exercise by keeping blood flowing. That is unless the patient is in excruciating pain or has suffered severe injuries.
But sleep differs from sitting around or laying down while watching TV. There are many reasons why people need at least eight hours of it every day. Some are just crucial to exercise recovery.
Benefits of Sleep as Exercise Recovery
Complete rest is critical, especially in the form of sleep. Sleep helps maintain vital biological functions, including those that help your muscles recover and repair themselves.
1. Muscle Recovery
As mentioned before, sleep is critical for muscle regeneration and recovery. Sure, general exercise recovery can help with that. But sleeping properly at night is especially beneficial.
During REM sleep, the body prioritizes rebuilding tissues and cells. This includes muscle tissues and cells. After being rebuilt, your muscles will feel good as new for you to embark on your fitness routine again.
Your muscles will rebuild even when you’re not asleep, but at a slower rate. If you try to work out at an intensity your still-recovering muscles aren’t ready for, you could injure them further, elongating their required recovery time.
2. Better Gym Performance
Sleep doesn’t only affect muscle growth. It also affects mental health and energy levels. Both are essential for you in many ways, including your gym performance.
When you feel energized and motivated, it often translates into great results in the gym. But when you don’t, you might not even be in the mood to exercise in the first place.
Both potential problems can be rectified with a healthy, daily dose of sleep. So let a good night’s rest do its work! Then, when you’re at the gym, you’ll feel completely ready to make a ton of progress in your routine.
3. Prevents Overtraining Syndrome
Getting into the habit of taking a rest day can prevent overtraining syndrome. Overtraining syndrome develops when an athlete continually does not adequately recover from frequent, intense training.
This syndrome is present in many student and professional athletes. Its symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Prolonged fatigue
- Longer recovery delays
- Weight and appetite loss
- Increased irritability
- Unusual muscle soreness
- Performance stagnation or decline
Despite the scheduling demands of certain sports, even elite athletes don’t gain much from overtraining. Sometimes less is more, and that definitely applies to resting to enhance your fitness prowess. Taking a rest day can put your fitness journey at a huge advantage.
4. Lower Risk for Accidental Injury
When you’re tired, your focus isn’t great. Though going to the gym might be a mundane, near-daily task, there are still risks of injury if you’re not careful. You’re not able to be as careful without paying attention.
Whether you’re running, swimming, using a machine, or lifting weights, focus and energy are critical. Otherwise, you can injure yourself or others, taking on injuries potentially worse than sore muscles. Get a good night’s sleep so that exercise doesn’t end up hurting you.
Lack of sleep, and subsequently lack of muscle recovery, can also lead to muscle injury and might even leave your muscles more susceptible to damage. This can even happen when performing exercises that wouldn’t usually cause injury.
5. Lowers Stress
Exercise itself can lower stress, but thinking about having to exercise 24/7 can increase stress too. And believe it or not, the best way to relax is to completely relax.
Sleep also directly lowers stress. Adults who sleep fewer than eight hours at night are more stressed than those who do get eight hours of sleep. Even worse, higher levels of stress can make it more difficult to sleep, creating a vicious cycle.
Stress itself can slow recovery, as it can take valuable energy resources from your body — resources that could’ve been used for your muscles. It can also affect your body’s ability to metabolize fat, which can potentially affect your overall fitness goals.
By eliminating the counterproductive burden of overtraining, you alleviate your schedule and consequently, maintain your peace of mind. So instead of going to the gym for the third time today, consider using that time to let your muscles rest instead.
Sleep as Exercise Recovery — It Works!
If you agree that exercise recovery is important, then you must ensure that you sleep well. But if you ever forget why, then just refer to the guide above.