11 Good Reasons For Skipping A Workout

No matter how dedicated you are to working out and achieving your physical fitness goals, there are some days when you just don't feel like it. Maybe you're too tired, enjoying your vacation, or your hectic schedule simply won't allow it. Regardless of the reason, when those days come, the couch seems like better company than your gym partner. You may feel guilty at first and beat yourself up for the missed workout. After all, regular exercise is an important element of maintaining a strong, functional body and a healthy lifestyle. But there are a number of good reasons for skipping a workout that is actually just as important for your overall health and well-being.


Skipping a workout now and again, or building rest days into your exercise routine, can actually be beneficial for your fitness goals. According to Better by Today, studies have shown that recovery times after a strength training workout range from two days up to one full week. It can also benefit your mental health. "Your body and mind both need time to recover for overall health and in order to achieve optimal performance," board-certified sports medicine physician James Ting, M.D. tells Daily Burn.

But how do you know for sure if you're skipping a workout for good reasons or if you're just being lazy? Below are 11 situations most professionals agree are excellent times for taking a break from exercise and the benefits of doing so.


You're feeling under the weather

Generally, if you're feeling sick, you don't want to work out. However, those that don't want to lose momentum or hinder their fitness goals may waffle between working out when they are sick and staying home to rest.


It is normally okay for people with mild colds and symptoms "above the neck" like a sore throat, earache, or runny nose to exercise when sick (via Healthline). While considered safe, these workouts should be shorter and less intense than your regular workout to avoid stressing out your body further. There is also the potential for spreading germs around if you're working out in a public space. While it isn't technically unsafe to work out with a cold, a couple of days of rest may be a better option for you and those you work out around.

On the other hand, it is not recommended to work out if you have symptoms below the neck such as fever or body aches, nausea, chest congestion, or productive coughs. Certain conditions, like a fever or stomach bug, can lead to dehydration as well as decrease endurance and coordination, and potentially increase the risk of injury. Exercising with flu-like symptoms, in addition to being highly contagious, can potentially harm your body's immune response and lengthen the recovery process. "The general rule of thumb is to listen to your body," sports health physician Dr. Vikas Patel, DO, tells Cleveland Clinic. "Taking a few days off won't impact your fitness level."


You're injured

If you injure yourself while working out or in an accident outside the gym, the best thing you can do for yourself and your body is rest. You may be tempted to power through the pain, but this can actually worsen your injury. "People that continue to power through after an injury or when in pain and don't give their body time to heal can — and most likely will — end up causing a much worse injury either now or in the near future," Juliet Kaska tells The Zoe Report. Once an injury has occurred, Kaska recommends resting the injured area for up to five days or until symptoms improve.


"I think it's important to think of a few days off as crucial to rehab a minor injury — not only to prevent a more significant injury that would result in even more missed time — but also as the recovery that's important for performance," physical therapist Lauren Lou D.P.T., C.S.C.S tells Shape. "A lot of athletes think about training as making gains and rest as missed gains, but it's not completely true. The body needs rest and recovery in order to maximize the benefit from training and working out." If you must work out, go slowly and focus on low-impact workouts or modify exercises to rest the injured area.

You aren't getting enough sleep

Although daily physical activity is proven to help improve the quality of sleep, if you are sleep deprived you may want to consider skipping your workout. According to the Sleep Foundation, adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep, but more than one-third of Americans get less than six per night. This significant and chronic lack of sleep not only keeps people from having the proper energy or motivation to exercise but can also affect how safely they exercise.


"Exercise is a physical stress applied to the body, and muscles get stronger in the period after the workout when the body is repairing the damage," exercise physiologist Pete McCall explains to Self. "Too much fatigue can reduce motor skills and increase the risk of injury, especially in a movement-based class like Zumba, kickboxing, or CrossFit. Less than five hours of sleep can affect reaction times and cognitive function, both of which are critical for optimal performance during exercise." If you are sleep deprived, prioritizing rest over activity can help you get back on track faster than attempting to work out exhausted.

Your schedule is jam-packed

Not having time to work out is a frequent excuse for people that simply don't want to exercise. But, sometimes, you really just don't have the time. The world is a fast-paced, sometimes stressful place and it can be overwhelming trying to juggle your daily responsibilities while simultaneously tending to your physical and mental health. This may lead to you becoming a victim of burnout, the negative effects of which can spill over into every aspect of your life, including your workouts. When your schedule is jam-packed with home, work, and social obligations, dropping a workout now and again for more restful activities may give you the break you need to feel more balanced.


Even if you're too busy to make it to the gym you should still try to move your body throughout the day, as doing so can help manage the stress from an overly-busy schedule. According to the U.S. News & World Report, carving out as many 10-minute increments of time in your day to do some form of easy activity as possible can be beneficial. You can stretch at your desk, do some yoga, or maybe fit in a couple of rounds of your favorite bodyweight exercise. If all you have time for is a 10-minute walk around the block, go for the walk, and don't worry about skipping the HIIT workout you planned on doing instead.

You have a raging hangover

If you've ever tried to work out with a hangover, you know how excruciating it can be. Your mouth is dry, your head is pounding, and you desperately want to lie down and watch "Clueless" while gorging on soft pretzels and Gatorade. You may think sweating will help you reset yourself, but as it turns out, attempting to work out when you're hungover is actually not a good idea. Being hungover is a sign of dehydration which an intense workout can make worse. People who work out with a raging hangover are also less coordinated and have fatigued muscles, both of which can lead to clumsiness and accidents that cause injury. Finally, if you're feeling the full effects of a hangover and try to work out anyway, you may experience unpleasant side effects like vomiting or diarrhea.


While some movement may be beneficial to help ease you out of your hangover, a full-on cardio workout or dance class is probably going to be too much. "If you already feel icky, intensity can just make you feel worse," Mimosa Gordon, a Pilates instructor and fitness expert, tells Byrdie. "Walking, light swimming, or any gentle whole-body movement workout are all beneficial for a hangover, as long as you keep sipping fluids."

You are suffering from painful menstrual cramps

It is perfectly healthy to work out during your period. Doing so can actually be an effective way to lessen cramps, reduce bloating, and improve your overall mood. Furthermore, there is no scientific evidence that having your period inhibits your ability to exercise the same way you would when you're not on your period. However, if you're suffering from extremely low energy levels and have painful menstrual cramps that normal exercise isn't touching, it's okay to skip your workout and rest instead.


"During the menstrual cycle, we feel the most run-down, because the progesterone is high and estrogen is low," Dr. Hall tells Insider. "I think that we need recovery days, so it's fine to modify your exercise to restorative yoga or gentle weight lifting. When we are exhausted, we don't want to do a full-on exercise."

If that weren't enough permission to take a rest day, some evidence suggests that working out on your period can also lead to more injuries, particularly in the joints. This is because period-related hormones can cause a softening in ligaments and connective tissues. "That increases your risk of sustaining a major injury, like an ACL tear, during that time," Rami Hashish, Ph.D., a body performance and injury expert,  tells Well+Good. Ultimately, whether you work out on your period or not, it is important to listen to your body and what it really needs.


You want to spend time with friends or family

Connecting with others and spending time with the people you love are vital for your mental and physical health. According to Sapien Labs, a lack of frequent in-person social interaction can have a significant negative impact on your mental health, even more so than a lack of regular exercise.


"As humans, we are naturally social creatures," counseling psychologist Dr. Kristie Fleetwood Meade explains to Stylist. "We really do need social interaction on a regular basis. Good relationships make us feel supported, which helps us achieve more in our lives as our agency is increased. Plus, when we support other people it increases our self-esteem and our self-confidence. It also builds our resilience to recover more quickly from illnesses."

Fitness and physical health are incredibly important for a well-balanced life, but rejecting your social health in favor of a session at the gym isn't going to do you any favors. If you haven't seen your friends or family in a while, and you want to do so, skipping your workout to spend time with them is going to make you feel happier and more satisfied with life in general.


Your muscles are too sore

During exercise, the fibers in your muscles stretch and experience microscopic tears causing stiff, sore muscles post-workout. This feeling, which often occurs as the result of strength training, is called Delay Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. Generally, DOMS lasts two to three days, but can last up to a week depending on your current fitness level and workout intensity. It can be tempting to push through the discomfort and adopt a "no pain, no gain" mentality. But not allowing your sore muscles to rest and recover properly is quite dangerous, and puts you at higher risk for serious muscle tears or tissue damage.


Active recovery, or participating in gentle, low-impact movements during your period of rest is important for helping your body heal and stay healthy without increasing your risk for injury. Swimming, walking, and yoga are all great exercises to help alleviate some of that uncomfortable soreness. However, if you can't perform basic activities like walking up and down stairs, getting out of bed, or rolling off the couch, you're probably too sore to work out. Furthermore, if gentle movement makes the soreness worse, you should opt for rest.

You're suffering from a bad sunburn

Sunburns are a major buzzkill. They are also a major reason to skip your workout. Chances are good that when you work out you are going to sweat and the saltwater will irritate your painful, inflamed skin. Not only does this hurt, but it can also be detrimental to the overall recovery process. As Dr. Jacqueline Schaffer tells 24 Life, "When you're in an acidic type of state, it's going to be harder for you to recover, and when you exercise, you go into a more acidic state because you're burning fat. Do not exercise. Your body needs all the time it can to recover."


But how long will that recovery period last, especially if your skin is really, really red? While it depends from person to person, you may have to wait at least a couple of days. "[Sunburns] should be handled with rest, hydration, and soothing creams until everything settles," dermatologist Jessica Krant, M.D., tells Self. "I would say wait about 48 hours before judging if the skin has calmed down and you feel well enough to exercise."

You had an active day

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as too much exercise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults participate in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity for optimal health benefits. But there are no hard and fast rules on what that physical activity entails. There are plenty of days when you get enough activity simply living your life. Maybe you help someone move, do yard work, or spend the day as a volunteer dog walker at your local animal shelter. Not only are these activities good for the soul, but they allow you to break out of your normal exercise routine and try new things.


Choosing to overwork your body on particularly active days may actually have consequences for your health. According to Women's Care, too much activity can lead to bone and muscle injuries like sprains, stress fractures, and shin splints. It can also cause fatigue and depression, disrupt your metabolism, and negatively impact your relationships with friends and family. However you get in a substantial amount of activity, if you are moving your body and feel too tired afterward to fit in an "actual" workout, feel free to skip it and enjoy some well-deserved rest. Your body and mind will thank you.

Rest days are vital for fitness gains

It has been well established that rest days are important for letting the body heal and avoiding injuries down the line due to overtraining. However, rest days are also vital for obtaining the results you want to see in the gym. No matter how hard you push yourself, if you aren't giving your body the rest it needs, your muscles will feel the negative effects of overtraining. This can lead to a decline in muscle growth. 


Rest days can also optimize your overall performance and help you lift heavier faster. According to a study published in the "International Journal of Exercise Science," recovery times of 48 to 72 hours are sufficient to help increase the amount of weight regular gym-goers can lift. Rest days can help increase energy levels to help prepare for those intense muscle-building workouts, while also improving reaction times and agility, and ultimately making it easier to stay motivated for your next workout.

Mindfulness is key. "If your body is telling you that you've had enough, then a rest day is needed," Araceli De Leon, a certified health coach and personal trainer, tells Live Science. "If you have been working out or doing intense physical activity for two or three days in a row, check in with how you're feeling on day three or four and take a rest day, even if it wasn't scheduled, to allow for proper regeneration."