Home Fitness Active recovery workout – What is it? is it better than a rest day?

Active recovery workout – What is it? is it better than a rest day?

by qalfit

Recovery is a must when it comes to workouts. Whether you choose a calisthenic workout or simply like to get a simple walking workout in your home, it is essential that you rest. This is because all your workout gains are derived from the recovery period post-workout. It is clear, therefore, to see how not taking the appropriate time to rest may be detrimental. Passive rest is a popular form of recovery, where individuals often take a ‘rest day’. However, you may be surprised to know that your body bounces back better if you do an active recovery workout. 

Here is everything you need to know about active recovery.

Read more: Getting back into the gym after a long break: Gym hacks

What is active recovery?

There are two types of recovery when it comes to fitness. These are passive recovery and active recovery. Passive recovery is a total rest without any physical activity. An active recovery workout, on the other hand, involves engaging in low-intensity exercises after completing a heavy workout routine. These exercises include walking, swimming, and yoga.

How does active recovery work?

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t build muscle when you work out. Working out actually tears them down. Recovery is actually responsible for muscle growth. This is because recovery helps you re-build muscles through the repair of micro-fissures. This is why rest days and recoveries are crucial to any fitness plan. But rest days doesn’t mean that you need to be completely sedentary and stay on your couch all day. 

This is where active recovery comes in. In addition to giving your muscles a rest, active recovery keeps blood flowing and helps muscles recover and rebuild faster after intense physical activity. The trick lies in to be active enough to increase blood flow, but gentle enough to let your muscles heal. 

Benefits of active recovery workout

Active recovery after workout provides a wealth of advantages for your body. Some of the benefits of doing active recovery workout include:

  • Increase blood flow to joints and muscles
  • Increase muscle flexibility
  • Eliminate toxins
  • Improve mood and mental health 
  • Reduce soreness and post-workout stiffness
  • Develop a healthier lifestyle on rest days.
  • Increase endurance and cardiovascular fitness 
  • Reduce lactic acid build-up in the muscles. 

Read more: Slow and steady rule to increase your exercise intensity

Low-intensity exercises to try on your active recovery workout

1. Soft tissue release

According to research published at the Journal of Athletic Training, simple self-myofascial release therapies such as foam rolling, massage stick, massage ball, and vibration therapy decrease muscle soreness after exercise. The exercises also reduce the risk of injury and improve flexibility. For better results, hit each of the large muscle groups for a minute each. This active recovery workout will get you refreshed in no time.

Massage stick and massage ball for active recovery workout

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2. Swimming

Swimming is one of the best low-intensity exercises. This is because swimming is easy on your joints and muscles. In fact, a study published in the National Library of Medicine showed that swim-based active recovery sessions enhanced exercise performance for runners. So for better results, opt for slow and easy laps instead of intense sprints to get the most out of this active recovery workout.

Swimming for active recovery workout
Swim-based active recovery sessions enhance exercise performance

Read more: Swimming tips for beginners

3. Yoga

Yoga is an excellent form of active recovery workout. It helps keep the blood flowing from head to toe without overtaxing your system. Yoga also helps stretch sore muscles and increases flexibility. The exercise is also relaxing and stress-relieving. Yoga can, therefore, be the perfect tonic you need on an active recovery day!

Woman doing yoga by touching toes on one side while looking upwards
Yoga is an excellent active recovery workout

Read more: Top 4 poses in yoga to reduce belly fat

4. Pilates

Pilates involves both stretching and low-intensity strength exercises. It is intense enough to pump your blood, yet simple enough not to rev your heart rate. This active recovery helps you recover faster from an intense workout routine.

Millennial Asian woman doing pilates on mat

5. Steady-state cardio

Steady-state cardio is a low-intensity cardio session on a treadmill or stationary bike. During this workout, you must aim to keep your heart rate between 120-140bpm. This workout not only promotes active muscle recovery but also promotes burning fat as fuel.

Man running on treadmill for active recovery workout
Steady-state cardio promotes active muscle recovery and helps burn fat as fuel

Read more: Key exercises to improve fast-twitch muscles

So, yes, an active recovery workout is better than taking a rest day. It gives you the chance to dial back and reset. With this workout, you get to stay on track with your fitness. So, from now on, incorporate active recovery into your mix and add extra time onto your cooldown days to get the full benefit of your workout.

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