In this article your question will be answered! Also, you'll receive a crash course in how to create a training session and develop a weekly exercise regime.
For as long as I can remember one of the pillars of correct exercise practice was to enforce rest periods between training days. It was held that exercising every day is not only unnecessary and a sign of obsession, but also harmful to the body. ‘Training every day,’ I can remember being told by an instructor on a personal training course, ‘prevents the body from recovery and can lead to injury.’
It’s for this reason why fitness professional always advised their clients to factor at least two days of rest into their weekly regime. For if you fail to rest, it was believed, the body will not fully recover which increases injury susceptibility.
But is this theory, if it can be called such, true? Is it ‘dangerous’ to engage in some form of physical activity every day? And if we do, will we put ourselves at risk of injury?
The answers to these questions hinge on how, exactly, we approach exercise and also what our fitness/training goals are.
For example, the professional athlete, say a cyclist, who exercises for up to 6-hours a day at varying intensities, will probably need a rest day. Up until a few years ago it was standard practice to enforce a full day of rest at the end of each training week.
However, nowadays even professional athletes tend not to have a complete day off training. For ‘prolonged recovery between exercise intervals’ has been shown to ‘impair performance,’ (Katch et al., 2001). ‘An athlete pushed to a high level of aerobic metabolism may not fully recovery during brief time-out periods.’
Instead of remaining inactive professional athletes engage in low-intensity ‘recovery sessions’ as research has shown that relaxed exercise (sometimes termed ‘cooling-down’ or ‘tapering-off’) is more effective at promoting muscle tissue repair.
Recovery (or active recovery) sessions, in contrast to passive recovery rest days, encourages increased blood flow into muscle tissues. This is beneficial for multiple reasons.
Firstly, active recovery sessions may in some way reduce post-exercise cramps and stiffness while also reducing the severity of delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS). Secondly, flooding muscles with oxygenated blood facilitates overall recovery by supplying damaged tissue with nutrients which are then used in the repair process. Furthermore, it has been suggested that re-circulating blood can help to ‘flush out’ metabolic waste, such as lactic acid – the build-up of which can significantly ‘disrupt physiological functions’.
But what if you’re not a professional athlete and your motivation for exercise is that of health, is it safe for you to exercise everyday?
The answer to that question is a resounding and most emphatic YES! If your exercise motivation is one of maintaining optimal health then, according to emerging research, you can – nay! should – engage in some form of physical activity every day.
In his hugely influential book, How Not To Die, Dr Michael Greger (along with Gene Stone) includes exercise in his ‘Daily Dozen’, a checklist of foods and nutrients that are instrumental to promoting health and well-being. He ‘advises one daily “serving” of exercise, which can be split up over the day,’ (How Not To Die 2017 – p274).
Greger included exercise in his Daily Dozen checklist because, ‘in addition to helping you enjoy a health body weight, exercises can also ward off and possibly reverse mild cognitive decline, boost your immune system, prevent and treat high blood pressure, and improve your mood and quality of sleep,’ (How Not To Die 2017 – p393). Hard as it is to believe, but these are just some of the benefits that regular exercise can confer. For a full treatment on the many benefits of exercise follow the link.
With all this said, there are a couple of caveats that need considering. The first and most obvious being that it is unadvisable to engage in the same exercise every day. Failure to diversify training methods can result in localised wear and tear and increased injury risk. By this I mean, if you went running every morning, 7 days a week 365 days a year, yes you would likely incur an overuse injury or, at the least, aggravate the muscles and joints of the lower extremities.
But if instead of mindlessly engaging in repetitive training you instead participated in a fitness-promoting mix of resistance, body weight and cardiovascular exercises, you would likely avoid injury while enjoying those benefits outlined by Dr Greger.
Right, at this point in the article you should be sufficiently convinced that exercising daily is both safe and beneficial for your health. If you are then you might now be inspired to implement your own daily exercise regime. This final section is dedicated to precisely that.
Below you will find an overview of how to create your own training session. In addition, an example outline of a one week regime has been included. The regime, which is really just a snapshot, is supposed to provide you with a structural guide and it is to act as a template not a prescription.
Remember: Whenever implementing a regime for the first time it is advisable to start off with low-intensity activities, such as walking, light jogging, cycling and swimming. The duration of each session ought not exceed 30-minutes. But this is only recommended during the initial stages of your daily exercise journey. In time, when you experience a noticeable increase in physicality and improvement in training competency, you can begin to build on both the duration and intensity of each training session.
Create Your Own Training Session | A Crash Course
This blank template has been created so that you can design your own training sessions. Follow the basic layout below ensuring never to neglect your warm-ups, cool-downs and stretches. For each section there are suggested training time durations and (for the warm-up and cool-down phases) exercise ideas.
Of course, you are not bounded by the suggestions; change what you want to suit your training timeframes and current fitness aspirations. However, correct training principals necessitate that before engaging in your ‘main session’ you spend a minimum of 10-minutes warming-up. In addition, you should conclude your training with a 5-minute cool-down and 5-minute stretch.
Ideally a warm-up should last for around ten minutes. It should include a cardiovascular exercise – preferably the rower or cross-trainer (as they work the whole body) – and similar exercises that will feature in your main session. The warm-up should gradually increase in intensity so that when ten minutes has elapsed you are at, or very near to, the intensity that you plan on working through your main session.
It would be unwise to sit on a static bike for ten minutes, peddles listlessly turning, and then attempt, say, a kettlebell session. The warm-up should be reflective of the main session design.
Main Session (20-plus-minutes)
The sky is quite literally the limit with the main session. In the past I’ve picked exercises out of a hat and arranged them arbitrarily – some of my best training sessions have been put together that way. The main session can last from between twenty minutes to a couple of hours or more. I once completed a circuit with a group of exercise enthusiasts which took 4-hours and 25-minutes – and that was first place; last place came in at seven hours!
The cool-down is really quite simple: do the warm-up in reverse. That’s it.
On completion of every exercise session you should force yourself to complete a structured, whole-body stretch that lasts for between 5 to 10-minutes. Start your stretch from the top of the body, beginning with the arms then shoulders, and work down ensuring to include all major muscle groups. Try to stretch each muscle twice holding the stretch for thirty seconds.
For a comprehensive overview of the principals of training see our other article: Essential Principals of Training.
(As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)
Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.
Greger, M. Stone, G (2017) How Not to Die. USA. Macmillan.
McArdle, W. D., Katch, F. I., Katch, V. L (2001) Exercise Physiology Fifth Edition. Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.