Do You Need To Take Rest Days Off From Walking?

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Whether you lift weights at the gym, regulate your breathing in Ashtanga yoga, or go all out in bootcamp classes like Orangetheory or Barry’s, you’ve likely been told a time or two that rest days are important. At the same time, you’ve probably heard that active recovery is key, as staying up and moving throughout each and every day is an indication for better overall health in the long term. Because of this, you may have developed a fondness for your daily "Hot Girl Walk”—hey, you’re not alone. But, the question is: Do you need to take rest days off from walking, too?

Experts In This Article

According to Peloton Tread instructor Marcel Dinkins, who has a background in track and field and cross country, it depends on the type of walking you’re doing.

When to take a rest day from walking

While walking is obviously slower and less intense than running, that doesn’t mean that it’s without challenges—nor without the ability to raise your heart rate. Dinkins says that the way in which you walk determines whether or not you need to take a rest day.

“I’m in the wheelhouse of doing what’s best for your overall well-being,” Dinkins says. “Although walking isn’t a high-impact activity, there is cumulative physical, as well as mental, stress being added to our physiological and psychological load from all of our workouts. And I believe that should be something we consider when planning our workouts.”

Generally speaking, walking is often thought to be a form of active recovery. However, if you’re speed walking or walking on an incline for a prolonged amount of time (like during the trendy 12-3-30 workout), that kind of activity can be classified as a heart-pumping workout in its own right.

“Walking to simply get a daily dose of movement versus walking to hit a target metric are going to deliver different responses to our bodies,” Dinkins explains. “The latter will have a higher cost and stress on your body, and should be something you occasionally rest from.”

Looking for a different kind of active recovery? Try this gentle, full-body stretch: 

Rest days are for your mental health, too

When deciding whether or not to take a day off from your walking routine, Dinkins urges us all to consider our mental health, as well.

“When thinking about your workouts, think about them in relation to all of you,” she says. “Are you just a little sluggish or are you mentally smoked? Keep a journal and log how you’re feeling. Notice patterns in how your mood ebbs and flows. This will tell you when you need to take your foot off the gas.”

(Love the idea of journaling about how your body reacts to exercise? The Papier Wellness Journal, $35, has space to jot down notes about activity, sleep, gratitude, soul-nourishing meals, and more.)

If you find that you’re simply exhausted, be kind to yourself. Giving yourself a hard time for taking a slow, gentle day will only stress you out more. If you need a little extra coaxing (and permission) to sit back and relax, remember this: “There is very little, if any, added physiological benefit to you doing a workout completely mentally fried,” Dinkins says. So, if you feel the need, take a rest day off from walking. The road (or your treadmill) will be waiting for you tomorrow.

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