Going to the gym and getting results takes consistency. But just how much consistency? Should you work out every day? Or is working out every day unnecessary, or worse, unsafe?
This article will answer all the questions you have. We’ll discuss why rest and recovery are an important part of your training regime, and whether or not you’re putting yourself at risk by hitting the gym seven days a week.
We’ll also help you figure out how often you should be training, depending on various personal factors such as your goals and what type of training you do.
The Importance of Rest & Recovery
We all know that working out is important. If you want to build muscle or lose weight, you need to get to the gym, on the pavement, or on the sports field, and move your body.
A lot of people also understand that nutrition is an important part of reaching your athletic goals.
But there’s a third factor, one that’s just as important as training and nutrition - recovery.
Recovery is when you actually realize the gains you make in the gym. It’s when the body repairs damaged muscle fibers, rebuilding them to be stronger than they were before. It’s also when your fuel tank gets refilled, so you have the energy and the stability to work out safely the next time.
If your recovery is lacking, you won’t get muscle growth, fat loss, or cardio gains in line with the work you put in at training.
In addition, and perhaps even worse, is the risk of injury. If you work out muscles that aren’t sufficiently recovered, it’s a shorter path to failure, and to injuries that take much longer to heal than regular wear and tear from an intense workout.
At the very least, you won’t perform as well. You won’t be able to run as far or as fast, or lift as much.
Serious athletes know the value of recovery, and make this a priority.
Is it Safe to Work Out Every Day?
So, we’ve got to ask the question - is it safe to work out every day?
The short answer is, it depends. It can be safe, as long as you aren’t pushing yourself too hard and giving your body, and each specific muscle group, time to recover.
There are many things that come into play when deciding whether it’s safe for you to train daily. These include:
- The intensity of each training session
- The length of your training sessions
- Which muscle groups you’re working
- What kind of exercises you’re performing
- Your nutrition and how it facilitates recovery
- Whether you do anything specific to aid recovery (sauna, hyperbaric chambers, ice baths, etc.)
- Your physical wellbeing/fitness
- Your personal health profile (i.e. any underlying health conditions or injuries)
There’s no way to give a “one size fits all” answer here.
It can be safe to work out every day. But if you’re doing 3-hour workouts every day, lifting to failure, running 12 miles each workout, and eating only cake and ice cream for dinner, it’s probably not so safe.
How to Decide Your Workout Frequency
Now let’s help you get a rough idea of how often you should work out.
As discussed, you want to make sure you’re working out safely, along with doing what’s optimal for progress. Either can be a problem if your workout frequency is too high.
Here are some things to consider:
What Are Your Fitness Goals?
First, understand what you’re trying to get out of training. Define your fitness goals. Are you trying to increase strength? Build muscle? Lose weight? Train for a specific event or competition? Do you have a deadline for reaching particular goals?
If you have a deadline, you’ll probably want to train as often as possible. This deadline could be external (like a race that’s scheduled for a certain date) or internal (your personal goal for hitting a weight loss milestone).
Some goals, however, require a more detailed attention to rest. For building strength and muscle, for example, rest is as important as your workout, so you might not actually be getting any benefit from working out every day.
What Kind of Workouts Do You Do?
What you do in your workouts influences whether or not it’s safe to work out every day.
With cardio workouts, such as running or cycling, there’s not a lot of risk to working out with a high frequency. Yet if you’re lifting weights, it’s a different story. Putting too much load on a muscle when it’s not fully recovered is a recipe for injury.
Another thing here to consider is, if you are doing weights, whether you do the same circuit every workout or do splits (i.e. one muscle group one day, another the next). With splits, it’s usually possible to break it up so you don’t overwork any muscle groups, despite lifting every day.
This should be obvious, but it’s more viable to work out daily if you’re doing lower-intensity workouts.
There’s a big difference between daily 30-minute workouts and daily 3 hour workouts. The same goes if you’re doing very heavy lifts, or intense sprints, versus moderate-intensity cardio and flexibility workouts.
How Is Your Recovery?
Finally, consider your recovery routine. It’ll be easier to work out every day if you’re doing things to help your body recover faster.
Positive recovery tools include:
- Sleep (consistency, length, and quality of sleep)
- Nutrition (eating quality, nutrient-rich whole foods vs processed junk foods)
- Supplements (things like protein, creatine, adaptogen supplements)
- Heat exposure (e.g. sauna)
- Cold exposure (e.g. ice baths/cold plunge)
If you can check a few of these boxes, you’ll be better suited to work out more often. But ultimately, consider how you feel each day. If you’re feeling a lot of soreness and fatigue, you may not be fully recovered, and it’s probably best to take a rest day here or there.
Should You Work Out Every Day? The Verdict
So, at the end of the day, is it a good idea to work out every day?
The short answer is yes, it can be as long you’re equally serious about your recovery and avoiding bad habits like not sleeping enough. Exercise is one of the best things we can do for overall health and wellbeing, so if you can work out every day, you should aim to do so.
In addition, the more you work out, the faster you’ll hit your fitness goals.
However, you should not work out every day if it means you’re not getting enough time to recover.
You’ll be at risk of injury, and you’ll be hindering your development if you don’t get adequate rest.
You might want to mix up your workouts, to ensure each muscle group gets sufficient rest, without needing to take many (or any) full days off.
Try working in splits - e.g. chest one day, arms the next. Or, alternate between heavy lifting and cardio each day, varying the intensity so each system has enough time to recover.