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Active recovery vs passive recovery - which is better?

Active and passive recovery are two different approaches to aiding the recovery process after exercise or physical activity. So, what are the differences between them, what are their advantages and disadvantages, and which one is better for you?

Tips on fitness recovery

Recovery is a key part of any exercise routine and there are many things which you can do to aid recovery. Diet and rest are arguably the two most important ways to ensure your body has the opportunity to recover. Let’s take a look at some of the key methods of boosting recovery.

How pain affects sleep

Most of us suffer some kind of pain from time to time. Fortunately for many people, pain is a temporary problem which affects sleep for a short period of time. For others, and particularly as we get older, certain long term chronic conditions can have detrimental affects on sleep.

Active stretching vs passive stretching

Stretching is used to improve flexibility, increase joint range of motion and enhance athletic performance. There are various stretching techniques available, with active stretching and passive stretching being two commonly employed methods. Let's examine them more closely.

We all know that exercise is good for us. Exercise and leading an active lifestyle is proven to help us lead healthier lives, reducing the risk of many long term health conditions as well as being good for mental health. What is less known is that recovery is arguably the most important part of any exercise routine because this is when the body adapts to the exercise, repairs itself and becomes stronger. When you exercise you are breaking down muscle tissue and depleting your energy stores. Recovery is when you replenish those energy stores and rebuild the muscle tissue which has been broken down. It can be tempting to keep on working out and failing to rest but this has a negative impact. Neglecting to recover can lead to more breakdown in muscle tissue, more fatigue and a decrease in performance. The longer you fail to take recovery time, the longer it will take to build your performance back up so it is important to factor recovery in as you go along.

Cooling down, or short term recovery, at the end of your workout is an important form of recovery. This could involve slow, light, low intensity exercise and could include having a healthy meal of protein and carbs to refuel. Long term recovery involves incorporating a recovery day into your training schedule once a week or so where you do very little exercise or have a complete rest and do no exercise. If you are on a more intense training schedule for a number of weeks, long term recovery could involve allowing a whole week out of the training period to allow for recovery and repair. This is not just the case for athletes and other professional sports people, it is necessary for any exercise schedule. Without this, muscle will continue to be broken down, fatigue will creep in and performance will dip.

Another essential part of rest and recovery is sleep. Lack of sleep leads to reduced energy levels which has a negative impact on performance. Constant sleep deprivation causes a reduction in the secretion of human growth hormone which helps to repair and build muscle tissue and increase muscle mass. Glycogen is also reduced so the body is unable to replenish and rebuild muscle as efficiently. It is important that you ensure you are getting enough sleep as this could be the reason why you are not able to perform as well as expected.

Recovery tools are known to help to speed up the recovery process. Foam rollers and massage sticks are a great choice since massage increases blood flow and improves recovery. They are easy to use, light and portable and can also be used for warming up before exercise. Joint supports offer warmth and compression and are known to help reduce inflammation and swelling. They can also be worn during exercise as a preventative measure. Hot and cold therapies are ideal for relieving muscle aches, pain and soreness. These reusable packs can be conveniently heated in the microwave or frozen in the freezer and are available for most areas of the body.