Rest and Recovery: Here’s Why It’s Critical

Here’s what you need to know the next time you feel guilty about lying on the couch for thirty minutes instead of getting your to-do list done.

Rest and recovery are important human needs that are typically prescribed by healthcare professionals to aid in the healing process of injuries, ailments, and stress (1). In terms of mental and emotional strength, rest and recovery are critical to promote mood, energy, and happiness.  

In terms of physical strength, rest and recovery are critical to help build and rebuild muscles and improve strength. In addition to that during exercise the body is using energy and fluids so rest and recovery aid in replenishing these losses. So, we can all agree that rest and recovery are crucial to our daily lives, but what does rest and recovery actually entail? 

Let’s Define It 

The term rest itself is commonly used interchangeably as it is defined as “a period of relaxing or ceasing to engage in strenuous or stressful activity”. This nonspecific definition, while seemingly self explanatory, leaves room for questioning what rest actually is. Is it sleeping, lying on the couch, watching tv, or simply not working?  

Additionally, recovery is also a nonspecific term defined as “a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength”. Recovery and rest are sometimes used interchangeably as they both pertain to allowing the body and mind to unwind in order to help restore function and build strength.  

Despite the lack of specific definitions, research has still been able to determine rest and recovery, whatever an individual defines these as, is extremely beneficial in terms of healing physical injuries, encouraging mental clarity, improving focus, increasing mood and overall happiness, and reducing stress. For example it takes the body roughly 24 hours to recover carbohydrate stores as well as fluid levels (2). With this in mind, rest days can help alleviate muscle soreness by removing the excess lactate build up from the muscles caused by exercise.  

Let’s Practice It 

All of this being said, take time out to find activities that may improve the quality of your daily life. Keep in mind that rest looks different for everyone. Some examples could include: a morning/evening walk, yoga class, ice bath, kinesotape, massage, therapy, counseling, cupping, taking a lunch break, utilizing your PTO, catching up on emails, setting a timer to scroll through facebook, etc (2)(3).  

While these activities may not be outright productive, they provide so many benefits that resting should be a daily activity. So, next time you feel guilty about lying on the couch for thirty minutes instead of getting your to-do list done, remember that this is in fact an important part of your physical, mental, and emotional health and will only benefit you in the long run.