Why Trainers Say the ‘5:2 Rule’ Should Guide Your 2022 Workouts

Photo: Getty Images/ F.J. Jimenez
Let’s allow the ‘no rest days’ mentality to be a thing of the past, shall we? That fitness trend isn't just over; it's also quite harmful. “Taking days off to allow for thorough muscle recovery is equally as important as the training itself,” says trainer Ella Magers. “People touting, ‘No days off!’ may sound hardcore, but in reality, [they’re epousing] a recipe for injuries, a lowered immune system, and less effective workouts." Overtraining, she says, is counterproductive.

Fortunately, many trainers recommend an alternative: the 5:2 rule. That means five days on, two days off. Here's why taking two whole days of rest and recovery helps your overall fitness. “Our muscles need time to build back up from the micro-tears that occur during training sessions, so it’s actually the recovery period in which lean muscle is created,” says Magers. “Many trainers say that two days of rest and recovery each week will help you maximize your results, both short and long-term.”

Onyx personal trainer Cameron Countryman adds that taking days off makes it easier to keep a regular workout schedule. “The more important meaning behind the 5:2 rule is that we are getting up and adding movement to our daily routines,” he says. “Many fitness and health professionals recommend the 5:2 rule because it keeps us on target to reach 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week; five days of about 30 minutes of exercise.”

He notes that you can tinker with the intensity and type of workout, depending on your experience and comfort level. “For example, those participating in exercise with an intermediate to advanced experience should focus on two to three days of strength training, two to three days of cardio, and two days of rest or active recovery," he says.

But if you’re a beginner, he explains, your schedule doesn’t have to comprise hourlong HIIT classes or crazy-difficult strength training. In fact, you can scale back on strength and cardio workouts a bit. “For instance, cardio can be a 20-minute walk one day, while a strength day can be 20 minutes of bodyweight exercises or 10 minutes of core work,” he says. Focus on the right intensity for your level, and adjust accordingly, says Countryman. The key? Just get moving—and remember to rest, rest, rest.

Make the most of your rest days by integrating this meditative yoga session into the mix. 

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