Can You Do Cardio on Rest Days and Is It Beneficial?

Can You Do Cardio on Rest Days and Is It Beneficial?

Posted by ZOZOFIT TEAM on

Can you do cardio on rest days? Discover when cardio is safe, why rest days are important and how to stay active while your muscles recover.

Overworking your muscles can be counterproductive to achieve fitness goals. Your body needs to rest after intense workouts. Can you do cardio on rest days? Light cardio can be a fantastic way to stay active and recharge your batteries at the same time.

The “work hard, play hard” mantra is often used in the world of business, but it applies to exercise, too. ZOZOFIT gets it. Completing an intense workout fills you with a sense of accomplishment. You did good, and there’s nothing wrong with taking a rest day if you need it. Can you do cardio on rest days, or should you let your muscles relax completely?

Can You Do Cardio on Rest Days?

As long as you have the energy for it, you can do some light cardio on rest days without problems. For example, if you’re giving your upper body a rest after lifting weights, nothing is stopping you from getting your feet moving with a light jog. Even if your core muscles are feeling a little sore, you can probably squeeze in some low-key swimming.

Cardio Exercises Versus Strength Training

One of the reasons that you can do cardio on rest days is that resistance training and cardio have different objectives and effects on your body. Strength training activities such as lifting weights or doing lunges effectively break down your muscles and rebuild them stronger.

On the other hand, cardio exercises involve activities that raise your heart rate. You can follow a program of low, moderate or vigorous cardio, including cycling and jogging. These activities can give your body a good workout and help you burn fat, but they don’t necessarily trigger muscle growth.

How Can You Do Cardio on Rest Days?

There is a wide range of cardio activities that pair well with rest days, including:

  • Walking (outdoors or treadmill)
  • Dancing
  • Swimming
  • Stretching
  • Kayaking
  • Biking
  • Aerobics

The key is to keep your exercise in the light-to-moderate range. If you’re biking, for example, don’t put too much resistance on your muscles. Focus more on getting your heart rate up.

Rest Day Frequency

The number of rest days your muscles need depends on several factors: the intensity of your workouts, your sleep quality and your stress levels. If you do a lot of strength training, you may need to squeeze in two or three rest days each week. At the very least, you should give your muscles a break every 7-10 days.

When Should You Skip Cardio Workouts?

Even though you can do cardio on rest days, that doesn’t mean you always should. Just like your brain needs relaxation after a long week at work, there are times when your muscles need to rest.

Doctor’s Orders

Always follow your doctor’s instructions when it comes to exercise, physical therapy and rest. After surgery, for example, your body needs plenty of time to heal itself inside and out.

Excess Muscle Soreness

Some soreness is normal after weight training. Delayed-onset muscle soreness is a sign that your body is building new muscle. That said, it’s not beneficial to be sore all the time. Taking a rest day can help you approach your next workout revitalized.

Physical Fatigue

Exhaustion isn’t good for long-term fitness. You want the exercise to feel rewarding and positive, not like a punishment. Take a breather for a day and get your energy back. This produces better results in the long run than being too hard on yourself.

Remember that a healthy lifestyle is more like a marathon than a sprint. Even if you can’t do cardio on rest days because you need more time to recover, you're tired because you worked out, which is a good thing.


Healthy exercise shouldn’t cause you physical pain. If you overstretched a muscle during your last workout or your neck feels stiff, don’t push your luck. Take a few days off so your body can concentrate on healing and pain relief. Visit a doctor if you suspect any serious injuries, such as ligament, tendon or joint issues.

What Are the Benefits of Doing Cardio on Rest Days?

Doing some cardio while your muscles recover can provide many benefits.

Your Muscles Recover More Quickly

Light or medium cardio keeps your blood pumping, literally. The boost in blood flow delivers plenty of oxygen and nutrients to tired muscles. Many vitamins, minerals and amino acids are building blocks of strong muscle tissue, and they can help sore muscles recover quickly. The increased blood flow also gets rid of workout-related waste products, such as lactic acid.

Cardio Keeps You Active and Flexible

Cardio helps your muscles stay flexible and energized. There’s even a scientific name for it: active recovery. Instead of crossing your arms and binge-watching Netflix, you support your body’s fitness. If you can do cardio on rest days, it can be great for your heart.

Imagine trying to start your car on a winter day. It can take a lot of effort to get the motor running in freezing temps, so you give it time to warm up. Similarly, active recovery keeps your “engine” warm and makes it easier to jump back into your regular routine afterward.

Exercise Provides Additional Benefits

Staying active isn’t just about losing weight or gaining muscle. Working out can be good for you physically, mentally and emotionally. According to the CDC, regular exercise can help you sleep better, reduce stress and support your overall health. You can get these benefits from light or moderate cardio, too, not just intense resistance training.

You Maintain Your Workout Routine

If you’re like many people, it’s easier to reach exercise goals when you have an established routine. Taking a complete rest day here or there doesn’t cause problems, but skipping workouts for three or four days at a time can make it much harder to stick with your exercise program.

When you can do cardio on rest days — even light activity — you keep yourself in an exercise mindset. You maintain your momentum and strengthen your determination to stay fit.

Can You Do Cardio on Rest Days Safely?

Rest day gives muscles a well-deserved break from intense exercise, but that doesn’t mean you have to avoid all physical activity. Going for a walk in the park or breaking out your salsa shoes can be excellent ways to stay active and feel great.

Can you do cardio on rest days? Yes, but don’t forget to make time for a soothing bath, relaxing massage or movie night with friends when you need it. Celebrate your successes by keeping tabs on your progress with ZOZOFIT's 3D scanning technology and digital fitness toolbox available on their app.

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