Taking rest days is important to avoid burnout and let your body recover, but making good use of your rest days can get you more steps for the rest of the week! Staying fit and hitting your daily activity recommendations isn’t just about walking every minute that you possibly can. It’s important to get adequate rest and ensure that you’re not walking more than your body can handle. It turns out that the days you don’t walk are just as important as the days you do! Studies have shown that rest is just as important as vigorous exercise when it comes to staying healthy.
Rest days allow your body time to recover from hard exercise and intense walking workouts, but they can also serve to help you round out your fitness in other ways as well. If you’re not doing a walking workout today, here are some tips on how to use your time to boost your step count for the week.
Spend time prepping healthy meals
On your rest day, you may have a little extra time to spare. Use this time to prep healthy meals and low-cal snacks for the rest of your week. Pre-cook a favorite protein, like lean chicken or fish, and roast some vegetables. Store them in the fridge, or even better divide them into individual containers for convenient, ready to heat-and-eat healthy meals. When you have a meal ready and waiting for you, you’ll be less apt to hit the drive-thru or make a not-so-healthy choice later. Pre-portioned 100-cal snacks are a great way to eat something you like and avoid searching out unhealthy but convenient snack foods. Even if you’ve never tried doing weekly meal prep before, there are lots of tips and resources available on the internet to inspire you.
Try some gentle yoga or stretching
The harder you work out and the more steps you take, the more likely you are to get sore or tight muscles. Release some of the tightness in them with yoga or some easy stretches. Stretching and lengthening tight muscles can help you reduce the chance of pain and injury during harder workouts later. If you are unsure how to stretch effectively, check online for plenty of sources on fundamental stretches. Don’t be afraid to give yoga a try, either. You don’t have to go to a studio or class to gain the benefits.
Yoga is a great way to build strength and flexibility, and there are plenty of free online resources that let you try yoga in the comfort of your own home. Many gentle yoga videos and other resources can be found online for free on YouTube or other sources. Just be careful not to overdo it though! Taxing your muscles too hard defeats the purpose of a rest day. Always make sure to do a light warmup – some leisurely walking around the house is a great one – before starting to stretch. Stretching when cold can lead to strains and injury.
Get a massage
Believe it or not, getting a massage can offer health benefits besides just feeling great. Massage can increase circulation and aid in repairing and rebuilding muscle tissue that may have been stressed during vigorous exercise. It also helps relieve muscle tension and can lead to an overall better quality of sleep. Self-massage techniques are helpful if you don’t want to spend a lot of extra money. Gentle pressure on tight areas you can reach is a great start. You can even turn a tennis ball into an inexpensive tool for easy, at-home massage. The idea here is to help work through any minor aches, pains or strains so that you can get your steps in tomorrow.
Plan your workouts for the rest of the week
Use some of your free time to plan out where and when you’re going to walk, jog or do a Pacer guided workout for the rest of the week. If you’re planning to get more intense, say by doing some incline walking in a hilly area, write down the route you’re going to take. If an intense walking workout is in your plans, decide where and when you’ll walk so that you have the best chance to hit your targets. By planning your walking ahead of time, you’re more likely to follow through when the time comes.
Taking some time when you’re motivated and energized means that you’ll have less to worry about when you’re stressed, tired, and maybe just don’t want to walk. You don’t want to turn what should be a walking day into an accidental rest day because you forgot to plan!
Rest days should be an important part of your overall fitness plan, but taking it easy on your exercise doesn’t mean you can’t do other activities to benefit your fitness and maintain your healthy habits. Make the most of your rest day and you’ll get even more steps and get even fitter during the rest of the week.
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