'Rest Days' Are Important: 4 Ways to Make the Most of Them

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iStock

Consider this your permission to skip the gym today: Exercising too much without giving your body a break might make you sick, according to new research published in the journal Frontiers of Physiology. Researchers at Catholic University of Brasilia observed people who do CrossFit on a regular basis to see how the high-intensity exercise affected their muscles and immune system. After two consecutive days of the rigorous workout, people showed reduced levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines—proteins that white blood cells produce to help lower inflammation. In effect, the back-to-back workouts with no rest were hampering their immune function.

That study looked at CrossFitters specifically, but they’re not the only ones who need a little R&R. Taking some time off from the gym is essential, no matter what kind of workout you tend to do—whether it’s weight-lifting or running or something low-impact like a barre class. “Rest days are important regardless of intensity level because you’re placing the body and mind under some form of stress,” says Marlon Briscoe, a certified personal trainer and owner of BodyByBriscoe Studios in New York City. “Imagine going to school or work 365 days a year with no break—how would you feel?”

Keep reading for his tips about how to make the most of your days off.

1. TAKE OFF AT LEAST ONE DAY A WEEK.

If you’ve been exercising regularly for a while and are fairly advanced, you can probably get away with working out three or four consecutive days without any time off, says Briscoe; but even so, make sure to take off at least one full day each week. If you’re a newbie, you might want to ease into a routine and give yourself another day or two off (spread them out throughout the week).

“When you have a day or two off between workouts, your body will be able to come back at full force,” says Briscoe. Plus, he says, your mind will be rested, “so you’ll also be more encouraged to continue your program.”

2. ON WORKOUT DAYS, MIX IT UP.

If you do work out a few days in a row, make sure to target different muscles—for instance, do arms one day and legs the next, or alternate running days with cross-training. “Muscles break down during exercise and repair when you’re at rest,” says Briscoe. So if you keep working the same muscles over and over, they don’t get the chance to build themselves back up. “You’ll compromise your results if you work out the same body parts on consecutive days,” he says.

Another reason to change up the routine: You’ll lower your chances of injury. If your muscles are tight or sore and you try to work through the pain, you have a great chance of harming yourself, says Briscoe.

3. ON YOUR OFF DAYS, BE LAZY.

Don’t be tempted to go for an easy bike ride, jog, or yoga class on your day off—because you won’t really be giving your body the break it needs. “A rest day should be just that: rest,” says Briscoe.

If you want to do something a little active, he advises sticking to easy stretching (holding each stretch for at least 30 seconds) or foam rolling. Those will help keep your muscles loose without putting too much added strain on them.

4. PAY ATTENTION TO THE P.M.

Getting enough Zs is another key component to your recovery post-workout, says Briscoe. He also recommends eating something with casein protein before you head to bed to help your muscles further recover while you sleep. Science has shown this is a good strategy; in fact, downing a beverage with casein protein half an hour before bedtime improved exercisers’ protein synthesis rates (which helps repair muscles) by 22 percent in a 2012 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. So feel free to enjoy a protein shake as a midnight snack.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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Why Do Some Vaccines Hurt More Than Others?

Whether you experience pain with a vaccine shot may depend on what type you're getting.
Whether you experience pain with a vaccine shot may depend on what type you're getting.
Gustavo Fring, Pexels // Public Domain

Whether you’re planning a trip abroad, have poked yourself with a dirty thorn, or want to prepare for flu season, sitting down for a vaccine shot is not usually a big deal. Barring any fear or apprehension about needles, it’s one quick alcohol swab, a jab into your deltoid, and a bandage.

Some people, however, report that some vaccine shots feel more like a harpoon, with pain upon injection and residual soreness. Does the level of discomfort have anything to do with the vaccine being administered, the patient, or the health care provider?

According to Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, injection pain is a normal consequence of a shot designed to provoke an immune system response. Dr. Messonnier told The Wall Street Journal that inflammation around the injection site is an indication the vaccine is working.

When a vaccine is injected, antigens are introduced into the body. These proteins allow white blood cells to battle against viruses. When they’re jabbed into your arm, your body mounts a defense at the injection site, leading to inflammation.

Some vaccines tend to hurt a little more than others, like ones targeting hepatitis A and B and DTaP (for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis). It’s not totally clear why, but it’s possible that additives designed to strengthen the immune system, like aluminum salts or monophosphoryl lipid A, are the culprit. “These are safe ingredients added to the vaccine specifically to create a stronger immune response,” Messonnier told the paper, adding that some people might be more sensitive to them than others.

These additives aren’t the only reason vaccines can sting. The pH level of the solution (which can be acidic), the volume, and the temperature can also affect whether there’s discomfort.

If you or your child are needle-averse, you can try distraction techniques like music, request a numbing cream, or take an over-the-counter pain reliever to combat any post-injection soreness.

Incidentally, the shot probably won’t hurt any more or less if it’s delivered into your buttocks, as was the practice at one time. While some vaccines work well in fatty tissue, like MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella, which gets directed to the fat near your triceps), many do not. And because flu vaccines are often administered in public places like pharmacies, it’s probably best that they stick to your upper extremities.

[h/t The Wall Street Journal]