The Importance of Rest and Recovery after Exercise

In a world of HIIT workouts, running, cycling and strength, your body needs time to rest and recover. Exercise can stress your body, so it’s important to have the correct recipe for recovery. Rest, hydration and nutrition all play a role in your recovery after exercise.

Active Recovery

While taking a step back, consider active recovery. This is a slower workout you do on a rest day or in-between bouts of movement during an intense workout. Benefits include reducing lactic acid, keeping muscles flexible, and increasing blood flow.

There are several ways to include active recovery in your workout.

  • Cool down — Instead of stopping after a workout, consider active recovery. Reduce your effort by 50%. For example, after an intense run, walk at a slower pace instead of stopping.
  • On rest day — Instead of doing nothing on a day off, consider a slower day of light exercise. Walking and yoga can be great for active recovery.

Sleep and Rest

Many times, your body needs total rest. During illness, injury, or when you feel extremely fatigued, a day without any activity can be just what the doctor ordered. As you embark on your fitness journey, it’s important to listen to your body and rest when you need it.

Additionally, do not underestimate the power of sleep. Adequate sleep of 8-10 hours per night can help you feel well-rested and improve performance.


Nutrition fuels the body with the nutrients it needs to continue maximizing your exercise potential. Nutrition needs after exercise vary by person and by exercise completed. What you need after a 30 minute walk can be different from a long bike ride or run.

  • Hydration — You lose fluid while exercising, so it’s important to stay adequately hydrated. Water and electrolyte drinks can be great options. For short bouts of exercise, water or calorie-free electrolyte drinks are a good choice. For longer bouts, an electrolyte drink containing carbohydrates may be used.
  • Refueling — Refueling should contain a mix of macronutrients. Carbohydrates help replenish fuel stores while protein supports muscle repair. A combination of these two is ideal. Try eating fruit with yogurt, a turkey sandwich, or a fruit smoothie after a workout.

Massage and Icing

Another element of recovery is massage and other physical therapies. A massage can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness when administered two to six hours after intense exercise. And let’s face it, it feels good! A massage increases blood flow and oxygen to the muscles while reducing lactic acid build up.

Some athletes benefit from an ice bath, which is just like what it sounds. It’s a very cool bath with ice and cold water, which can work for anyone who is in good health. Ice baths can help ease muscle soreness and decrease inflammation. Many use these for recovery.

Remember, every body recovers differently. Take time to ensure you recover and rest for your maximum performance.

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