If you think about it, life itself has clear examples of things working toward equilibrium. Whether it’s found in physics, chemistry, biology, or economics, life is about balance.
Where there’s a Yin you’ll find a Yang.
This homeostasis is within your body, too, which means the path to your health and wellness is dependent on your ability to maintain balance.
Heady stuff I know. But it acknowledges an important point about exercise: You need a break from it. As counterintuitive as that might seem — and as unnatural as it feels for me to suggest it — rest and relaxation may be as crucial to your health as is exercise.
The stresses that you place on your body, whether by exercise or physical activity, take their toll. You are not the Energizer Bunny with the ability to keep going without rest. Your body (and mind) needs time to recharge and reboot.
Take resistance training as an example. Gaining strength through weight lifting is essentially a tear-down-and-rebuild operation. When your muscles stretch and contract to lift weight they actually create microscopic tears in your muscle fibers. (You might recognize this as soreness the morning following a robust workout.) Those muscles fibers then use nutrients from your diet… and adequate rest… to be rebuilt stronger. Sleep, specifically, is of utmost importance especially as you become more physically active.
What would happen if you were to neglect rest? We call this overtraining; short-term dangers include exhaustion and bodily injury. Habitual overtraining can lead to sleeplessness, unhealthy weight loss, anxiety, or even inability to fight illness and infection. Many studies show that not enough sleep can also lead to unhealthy weight gain. It would seem that there comes a point where binging on exercise or physical activity is counterproductive: You work your body too hard, it won’t settle down when time comes to sleep and it won’t get restoration needed for the day ahead… which then puts you in position to skip tomorrow’s exercise because you’re too wiped from the day before. Yeah, it’s exhausting to think about! This cyclical nature says you can’t maintain an endless work state; when you are well-rested your body repairs itself and regenerates to take on another day.
Repeat after me: The goal is balance. If you want your body to function properly you must give it rest that is in direct relation to your physical output. To that point, increases or decreases in physical activity demand rest that must adjust exponentially. On any given day, if your only movements are from your bed, to your desk, to your couch…then you need another outlet for movement. Then again if you’re on your feet all day and then add exercise to the mix, then your body needs a great deal of rest time if not only to recover physically, but to also have the oomph do it all over again tomorrow.
It’s important to regularly scrutinize how you spend your days. Discern where it is that you need this balance in your life. Find symmetry between work and rest. Once you do, your wellness will be self-sustaining; you’ll have found a lifestyle that compliments itself. You cannot work without rest and you cannot rest without having worked.
On this Thanksgiving, once you’ve had your workout, whether in the gym, or outside raking leaves, take a second to kick back. Your body will thank you. Live well.