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How Recovery Days Help Your Cardio Workout

Man running on Planet Fitness Treadmill

Hitting the gym for a cardio workout whenever you can offers tons of benefits from better heart health to lower stress levels. But is there such a thing as too much cardio?

There might be if you don’t put some recovery days into the mix. Even if you do cardio at a moderate pace, your body still needs time to rest and repair. Here are five reasons that recovery can help keep you on track.

1. Helps build your muscles.

If you do strength training, it’s likely that you already know about the benefits of rest days. When you lift weights, you’re basically making micro tears in the muscle, and recovery time causes that muscle to rebuild itself and get stronger. The same happens with cardio workouts since you’re bringing whole muscle groups to a fatigue point. Recovery can help you come back stronger than before.

2. Sends you into deeper sleep.

Overtraining can cause stress throughout the body and that includes the mind. You’ll be a stew of adrenaline and cortisol,  the brain chemicals that keep you wired, and thinking way too much when you’re trying to sleep. A rest day can turn off that “high-alert” alarm and let you get your zzzs instead.

3. Improves workout performance.

Although some people might fret that recovery will “set them back” in terms of reaching their goals, the opposite is true. Unless you take a rest day that extends into a couple weeks, you’ll be boosting your performance when you come back to your cardio workouts.

4. Prevents injuries.

When you’re all go-go-go with cardio workouts, there’s a risk of overtraining, no matter what type of cardio you’re doing. By using the same motions over and over, you could be putting strain on your muscles and joints. If that results in weakness, then your once-safe cardio workout suddenly becomes a recipe for injury. Because recovery allows for healing and repair, you’ll be all about injury prevention instead.

5. Boosts the immune system.

Much like the negative effect on sleep, the stress of overtraining can do a number on your immune system, too. Your body won’t be able to stay in top shape and fight off all those germy invaders you’re exposed to daily. That can lead to feeling run down, achy, and irritable — and eventually, you may even be more susceptible to colds and other viruses. Give your immune system better support with recovery days that let it excel at its job.

Recover Now, Crush It Later

When you take a recovery day, it doesn’t mean that you have to go into couch potato mode. Many fitness experts recommend taking a low-impact, moderate-pace activity day. For example, it might be the perfect time to take a yoga class or go for a walk with your kids. You can stay active and still let your body recover from your cardio workout rounds.