Is It OK To Exercise Everyday?

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).