If you think you have to exercise to the point of exhaustion every day to lose weight, you’re wrong. In fact, easy workouts are essential if you want to burn fat and lose weight with exercise. But how you set up your easy workout plan depends on your workout history.
Beginning and advanced exercisers use easy workouts differently. For beginners, low intensity exercise lays the groundwork for building a fitness program. If you are new to exercise or if you’ve had no luck maintaining an exercise program, start with a program of easy weight loss workouts. But if you are an intermediate or advanced exerciser, use easy exercise on your active recovery days.
What is Active Recovery?
An active rest day, or a recovery day, is part of a complete workout program that includes high intensity, moderate intensity and low intensity exercise. During the low intensity recovery days you still exercise, but you keep your heart rate low (no higher than 70% of your maximum heart rate) and focus on activities that loosen the muscles, increase your range of motion, and allow your body and mind to recover from more intense sessions.
During a typical week, you should schedule a recovery day after each high intensity workout day. So, if you do high intensity intervals on Mondays and Thursdays, you should schedule easy workouts for Tuesday and Friday. If you do a high intensity workout on Sunday, make Monday your active rest day.
Weight Loss Benefits of Easy Workout Days
It’s tempting to flop on the couch the day after a high intensity exercise session, but if you’re trying to lose weight, you should choose to do an active recovery workout instead. The weight loss benefits add up.
- Burn calories. Even low intensity exercise burns calories, especially if you compare it to sitting on the couch. You may only burn 200 calories during your easy workout, but over the course of an eight-week exercise program, that adds up to almost 3500 extra calories burned or one extra pound of weight lost if you do it twice per week
- Build/Maintain Consistent Workout Schedule. The hardest part of starting an exercise program is building a new routine. You’ll build the routine faster if you get into the habit of exercising every day. With active rest days, you are more likely to be able to maintain a daily exercise habit.
- Increased Range of Motion. Active recovery days are great opportunities to do exercises and activities that use your muscles in new and different ways. This helps to create a healthy balanced body that remains injury-free for more intense calorie-blasting workouts.
- Decrease Stress. Easy workouts should make you feel good. They are a great way to blow off steam and avoid emotional binge eating.
Easy Workout Ideas
There are countless options for your active recovery days. To maximize the health benefits of your fitness program, try to do easy workouts with muscles that are different than the ones you use during your hard day workouts, or that stretch the muscles that are tired and sore. For example,
- if you complete a high intensity run on Monday, a good rest day workout might include a walk. Even though you are still using your legs, walking focuses on the muscles in the back of your legs (glutes and hamstrings) and walking lengthens the hip flexors that tighten when you run.
- if you ride your bike to lose weight, try swimming or yoga on your recovery day. Cycling primarily works the lower body. Swimming and yoga help build upper body strength and depending on how you do the workout, can help to increase range of motion in your legs.
- If you completed a high intensity circuit workout, use your easy exercise day to focus on flexibility and stretching. Take a dance class, do restorative yoga, or aqua jog for 20 minutes followed by 10 minutes of poolside stretching.
The Best Recovery Day Workout
The best recovery day workout is the one that you do. Remember, the purpose of this easy workout is not just to burn calories, but it is to help you to maintain a consistent daily exercise program. Rest days are also opportunities to destress and give your mind a break, so don't worry about doing the right workout or the right exercise. Just do something. If you do a workout, any workout, no matter what it is, you’ve gained a benefit.