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Will I Gain Weight if I Skip a Day of Exercise?

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Will I Gain Weight if I Skip a Day of Exercise?

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Skipping a day of exercise won’t cause weight gain, but frequently missing workouts may impact your weight management efforts and make it harder to stay motivated. 
  • Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise and two days of resistance exercises per week. 
  • Taking at least one rest day per week is important to help muscle recovery and maintain a healthy relationship with exercise. 

Regular exercise comes with a plethora of health benefits, from reduced heart disease risk to helping weight management efforts. Many people adopt strict exercise routines and become fearful that taking a day off will result in weight gain. 

However, skipping a workout here and there typically doesn’t cause weight gain, and taking regular rest days is healthy for muscle recovery and preventing injury.

Continue reading for more information on the effects of skipping exercise days and the optimal amount of exercise for weight management. 

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Will I Gain Weight if I Skip a Day of Exercise?

Typically, you won’t gain weight from skipping a single day of exercise on occasion. Your overall eating and exercise habits are what matter, and you don’t need to be perfect 100% of the time to see results. Consistent, regular exercise most of the time is what can aid weight management efforts.  

If you notice an increase on the scale the day after a missed workout, it’s likely just a normal fluctuation in weight, which can be up to 5 pounds from day to day. This can be due to many factors, including changes in water, sodium, and alcohol intake. 

In addition, you won’t lose progress in the muscle mass or cardiovascular fitness you’ve built up by taking a day off. It typically takes a few weeks of skipped workouts for your fitness level to decline. 

What Happens If You Skip Exercise for a Day?

While missing a workout may not cause weight gain, it may impact your motivation to stick with a consistent physical activity routine. One day turns into two days, and so on.  

Many people exercise because they feel they have to, but research shows motivation for physical activity is higher when a person wants to be active. The best way to handle a skipped day of exercise is to resume your regular exercise routine and focus on the positive effects on your mood, sleep, and well-being. 

Effects of Skipping a Day of Exercise on Your Metabolism

You may wonder how a missed day of exercise impacts your metabolic function. If you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, regular exercise is recommended because it helps improve insulin resistance and assists with weight management. 

Interestingly, the benefit of physical activity on insulin sensitivity is short-lived, going away 48-72 hours after exercising. Because of this, experts recommend people with diabetes or metabolic syndrome exercise at least three days per week.  

On the other hand, taking one to two rest days per week may help your metabolism. Research shows that people who engage in vigorous exercise seven days per week have a higher risk of heart disease and stroke than those who rest at least one day weekly.

How Often Do I Need to Exercise to Lose Weight?

For optimal health, experts recommend a combination of cardiovascular exercises, such as running and jumping, and strength exercises, like lifting weights and doing pushups. In the United States, the physical activity guidelines for adults are: 

  • At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise OR 75 minutes of high-intensity cardiovascular exercise weekly. 
  • Resistance exercises at least two days per week.

Different activities can be easy or intense, depending on a person’s fitness level. To identify the intensity of your workout, it’s best to consider how hard you’re working. 

  • Light-intensity exercise: you are able to sing.
  • Moderate-intensity exercise: you can easily talk but not sing.
  • High-intensity exercise: it may be difficult to talk.

Every body responds to exercise differently. While 150 minutes of exercise per week is effective for many, some people need more than 150 minutes of exercise weekly to assist in weight management efforts. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 225 minutes of physical activity per week for people trying to lose weight.  

Research shows that exercise is more effective for weight management when combined with a balanced eating plan.

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Benefits of Taking a Break From Exercise 

Taking breaks from exercise isn’t necessarily bad and can help with muscle recovery, reduce injury rates, and improve your relationship with exercise. 

Promote Muscle Recovery

Incorporating regular rest days can help muscle recovery and growth. Experts recommend taking at least one day per week off to recover from high-intensity cardiovascular exercise. When it comes to resistance exercises, some research has shown the benefit of resting 48-72 hours between training sessions. 

Reduce the Risk of Injury

Research shows that being active less than twice a week increases your risk of getting injured when you do exercise, citing an optimal level of at least three days weekly. If you’ve taken a long break from exercise, like a couple of weeks or months, it’s important to ease back into it slowly to prevent injury. 

Create Healthy Habits Around Exercise

Part of creating a lifelong exercise habit is flexibility. It can be easy to fall into the “more is better” trap and start over-exercising. If you push yourself too hard by exercising every day, you may experience injury or cause metabolic stress

In addition, being too rigid with your physical activity regimen can be a warning sign for an eating disorder. Exercising when you’re sick, injured, or fatigued isn’t healthy. Be sure you are giving yourself time to rest and recover when needed.

Tips for Staying on Track with Exercise for Weight Loss

Regular exercise can be a challenging habit, especially if you view it as a punishment or a chore. Finding fun activities, finding an exercise partner, and focusing on shorter activity intervals may help you build a sustainable exercise routine. 

Find What You Love

The best way to stay on track with your exercise goals is to find ways to move your body that you enjoy. Maybe you don’t enjoy working out at the gym but love hiking. Perhaps group fitness classes are motivating, or maybe an at-home yoga video is a better fit. Group sports can be a fun way to socialize while being active. 

Experiment with different activities to help you find the ones that make your body feel good and that make you happy. You’ll be more likely to stay consistent with exercise if it’s something you look forward to. 

Break It Up

If exercising for 30 minutes five times per week feels overwhelming, you can break it up into smaller increments. Research shows that it doesn’t matter how you split up your recommended 150 minutes of exercise every week—even intervals of 10 minutes at a time count. 

Try taking a ten-minute walking break during the work day, doing a fifteen-minute yoga video, or incorporating Tabata-style cardio workouts. 

Exercise With Friends

Adding a social component to exercise can make it more enjoyable. Try setting a weekly walking date with a friend or finding family activities, such as pickleball or biking, for the weekends that everyone enjoys.

Takeaway

Occasionally skipping a day of exercise doesn’t typically cause weight gain, as your overall eating and exercise habits are what matter. Aim for at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular activity weekly, along with two days per week of strength exercises. 

Building at least one rest day per week into your routine is important to prevent injury, promote muscle recovery, and avoid an unhealthy relationship with exercise. Stay motivated by finding activities you enjoy, exercising with a friend, and building small intervals of physical activity into your day. 

How Can a Dietitian Help?

Weight management is a complex topic involving more than calories in and calories out. Talk with a registered dietitian through Nourish for evidence-based guidance on balanced eating and exercise to help you meet your goals. 

Find a dietitian near you that accepts insurance using Nourish.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is it OK to miss a day of workout?

Skipping a workout occasionally will not reverse all your hard work or cause weight gain. It’s important not to let a missed day of physical activity impact your motivation or cause guilt. What matters is your overall eating and exercise habits.

Is a rest day good for weight loss?

A consistent exercise routine and a balanced diet can aid in weight management efforts. Pushing yourself too hard and not taking rest days from physical activity can result in injury, making it hard to maintain a long-term exercise regimen.

References

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