If you resolved to work out more in 2018, congratulations! Regular physical activity is good for your physical and mental health and can help you keep your weight in check. If that shiny new gym membership is calling your name, you may be wondering if it’s okay to go to the gym every day.
There are many fitness myths about what is both good and not so good for you. One of those myths may have you thinking it’s not good to head to the gym on a daily basis. Before deciding if daily physical activity is doing more harm than good, you need to delve deeper into what happens when you step through those gym doors.
Making physical activity a regular habit is a good thing and can produce long-term health benefits. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggest adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity per week. The guidelines suggest that increases in aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes (moderate intensity)/150 minutes (vigorous intensity) or more per week may provide additional health benefits. The guidelines also suggest adults engage in muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days per week.
While you certainly don’t have to work out seven days a week to get in the recommended amount of physical activity, there’s no reason you can’t or shouldn’t be physically active every day of the week. What you do need to consider, however, is what you do on each of those days so you don’t get hurt.
When performing muscle strengthening activities such as lifting weights, muscle fibers break down so they can rebuild themselves and get stronger. While your body does this, it needs time to recover. Your body also needs time to recover after an intense aerobic workout. That’s why experts recommend you don’t strength train using the same muscle group two days in a row. It’s also why marathon training schedules alternate intense days of training with lighter workouts, cross-training or rest days.
If the gym is a place you like to be, it doesn’t mean you can’t head there on your rest or recovery days. While you’re there, you’ll just need to engage in an activity that gives your body a chance to heal from what you did on the previous day. Examples include taking a walk on the elliptical trainer or going for a swim. The key is to take the intensity down a notch or two from what you did the previous day and to not tax the same muscle groups as you did during your previous workout if you pushed them hard.
Keep in mind that sometimes even when you think you’re “taking it easy,” you’re going a bit too strong. When this happens, your body will let you know it needs a rest. Signs of overtraining include a plateau in weight loss or even weight gain, trouble sleeping although you’re very tired, mood problems and burnout.
There’s no need to avoid the gym some days of the week – that is a myth that simply has no merit. Just be mindful in what you do, both in type of activity and intensity level and make sure you switch things up to give your body appropriate rest when it needs it.