Wellness·4 min read

Why People Are Taking Their ‘Rest Days’ at the Gym

Women resting during a yoga class
April 7, 2022

If it’s been a minute since you’ve had a moment to just chill out…you’re not alone. Stress levels are high for Americans across the board — especially as the pandemic continues into its third year. And recently, more people are going somewhere unexpected to get some R&R: The gym.

Gyms are usually full of loud music, heavy weights and equipment, and intense workouts. But that’s apparently starting to change. Our “Skimm This” podcast team talked to a fitness expert about why that is. Scroll down to read more — and listen to the episode below.

The Demand For Low-Intensity Workouts and Rest Days at the Gym

Gyms around the country are seeing more demand for classes with a gentler tone. (Think: less CrossFit, more restorative yoga.) On top of that, they’re adding more yoga and meditation classes — and “recovery” rooms for relaxing. That’s according to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal.

Examples: 24 Hour Fitness, a national gym chain, increased its number of recovery classes by 33% since last summer. And Crunch Fitness, another chain, has added “rest and recover” spaces, which include things like massage chairs and gadgets. That amenity is currently available at six locations and Crunch has plans to expand later this year.

The goal: To curate a more thoughtful approach to working out. And gym-goers are into it. They are rushing to sign up for soothing gym classes. Which include stretching and meditation, among other options. That’s what Amber McMillan, senior vice president of fitness and weight loss at Life Time Gym, told “Skimm This.” “Those classes are packed,” she said. “Our member base [is] really craving the opportunity to unwind.” 

The reason for all this? The pandemic. It shifted our mindset around exercise. Now, gyms are starting to understand and cater to that. 

“We’ve been through so much,” McMillan said. Adding that the pandemic has been “a time where we have realized the importance of health. And that’s not just your physical health, but your mental health.” Think of it as a more holistic approach to wellbeing. Which brings us to…

How Rest Benefits Muscle Recovery and Your Mental Health

The less rigorous fitness classes have science backing them up: Rest and meditation can help your body heal from intense exercise. And help you manage anxiety and stress. 

“Your recovery days are where you’re actually repairing and rebuilding [your muscles], and it’s an extremely critical component,” McMillan said. “But mentally, for you to make sure you’re not getting burned out, that you have the opportunity to be present and mindful.”

Our focus on mental health “is bigger now than it’s ever been,” McMillan added. At the gym, that means more people are focused less on HIIT and spin classes — and more on long walks, meditation, or other low-intensity workouts that keep them feeling zen. Because giving your body some much-needed R&R is key.

“It’s important that you don’t feel guilty for not having an intense workout — that you feel like you’ve had an opportunity to fully recover,” she said. “Let your body and your mind go through the recovery stage and benefits.” 

Psst…We’ve got more tips on how to clear your mind and rest here.


The pandemic has changed so many aspects of our lives — including how we treat our bodies. And it’s spotlighted rest and relaxation. Because it can be beneficial to both your physical and mental health. 

PS: For more on this story and our conversation with McMillan, listen to our "Skimm This" episode.

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