The importance of rest and recovery has been overlooked in the fast paced world of exercises, fitness, body image, and performance. It's what you do outside the gym that really matters!
The body heals when one is sleeping. Therefore, a lack of sleep (rest) leads to more of a breakdown in muscle tissue causing injuries (micro- tears) that creep up as we get older. For example, sitting at a desk 8+ hours a day, for 30+ years can lead to a chronic shortening of important muscles. By that time, the typical person has experience neck/shoulder/back/hip and/or knee pain of some sort. They decide on starting an exercising program because they've been told by their doctor to do so.
Without the knowledge of when to rest, one would try to do as many reps and sets as possible, or walk numerous miles, or try intense fitness classes to accomplish unrealistic goals. This isn't ideal because it leads to major injuries in the body down to the
Here is an ideal schedule to use when starting an exercising program:
2-3x weekly with moderate size weights
Choose exercises that strengthen your hips and back
10-12 reps / 3-4 sets / rest: 1-2 mins between sets
Run/walk 1-4 miles within the first 4 weeks, only increasing 20% each week.
Run/walk between 2-4x a week.
Swimming is a great alternative if you have back or knee pain
Biking is great, but not if you have back pain
Don't forget to include weight training to strengthen muscles.
Choose low impact classes at first (yoga, Pilates, water aerobics, etc).
Cardio classes are great for burning calories (kickboxing, boxing, zumba).
High impact classes come with high risk- high reward factors (crossfit), be careful.
Take 2-3 classes a week.
Mix them up monthly to see which instructors and classes you like.
As you see the most any beginner should start with is 3-4x a week if they are strength training or doing endurance training. That leaves at least 72 hours of rest! Please use that time wisely to focus on sleep and nutrition, the other building blocks in recovery.