Working out stresses not only your body but also your mind. Often with intense workouts, you are engaging your mind in an intense way—being hyper-focused and straining everything to complete the exercise. In extreme cases, putting yourself through this level of stress on a consistent basis may lead to depression, anger, confusion, anxiety, and irritability. Often we use exercising as another way to beat ourselves up. Scheduling in a break day can give your mind and body some much-needed breathing space. It can also help to identify and break patterns of addiction. Being addicted to working out is a real thing, and it’s not healthy—I know from personal experience. Being diligent about break days can insert a change in your pattern and force you to focus on other elements of your life besides working out.
How many break days you take in a week and what you do on your break days depends on your personal exercise regimen and situation. Older people might need more time to recover, as do people who do a lot of heavy weight-training. Taking a break day doesn’t mean turning into a couch potato—you can still be physically active by taking walks, for example, or a restorative yoga class. Giving yourself a break takes intention and, for those of us who are avid exercisers, diligence. But the effects are numerous and nourishing for your body, mind, and heart.