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Rest Day vs. Active Recovery: What’s the Difference?

You’ve heard about the importance of having a regular workout routine. Establishing an exercise schedule helps you plan out your workouts in advance and helps keep you motivated to continue working on your fitness goals. Without a routine, some people find it difficult to stay on track and they can easily start slacking off or skipping workouts, which is less than ideal when trying to lead a healthy lifestyle. 

While it’s important to have a regular workout routine, more isn’t always better. You should also be building rest days into your routine. Rest and recovery are a critical part of fitness as it allows your muscles to repair themselves after intense or strenuous activity. That’s not to say that you should be totally inactive on rest days, though; there are many beneficial activities you can build into your routine that can be considered “active recovery” exercises. 

What’s the Difference Between Rest Day and Active Recovery?

The term “rest day” can be interpreted differently depending on the frequency and intensity of your regular workout routine. For some people, it may mean relaxing or not doing any form of exercise or physical activity. This type of rest day is also known as passive recovery, where you’re avoiding activities that would otherwise put a strain on your muscles.

Passive recovery days can include a massage for sore muscles, extra sleep time, or even meditation to help clear your mind while resting your body.

Rest days can also mean that you’re simply resting the muscles you’ve most recently worked on at the gym. For example, if you have a strenuous leg day workout and then focus on your upper body the following day, that would be a rest day for your legs. Alternating exercise days for different muscle groups helps give each group their own rest day and time to recover.

Active recovery, as the name suggests, is activity that promotes recovery for your body. Instead of passively sitting on the couch or laying down, for instance, active recovery includes movement like walking or stretching that helps keep your muscles working at a less strenuous level.

So, what’s the difference between a rest day and active recovery? It depends! Rest day could sometimes mean passive recovery (with no activity), and it could also include active recovery activities. Putting semantics aside, continue reading for some ideas for rest day activities and learn more about why active recovery is important for your body.

What Should You Do on a Rest Day?

The type of exercise that you do on a typical day in your workout routine will help determine your ideal rest day activities. If you lift weights several days per week, it may be good to give your muscles a good stretch through practicing yoga. Yoga has fantastic health benefits like improved flexibility and strength, improved sleep, decreased stress and anxiety, and can also help prevent health problems like high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Alternatively, if you’re a running enthusiast or love doing intense cardio sessions regularly, try a lower impact activity like swimming or an easy bike ride on your rest days to give your body a break.

When you lift weights or do intense workouts, the strenuous activity can break down or damage muscle tissue, and your body needs time as well as nutritious foods to help it recover. During rest, cells called fibroblasts help repair your damaged muscles, helping them heal and grow stronger.

You can try different rest day activities to keep the blood flowing, like walking in a park or around the block, a full-body stretch session, foam rolling, or even a low-impact cardio workout or water fitness class.Rest days should also incorporate sufficient hydration and a good amount of sleep.

Why is Active Recovery Important?

How exactly does active recovery help your body after a difficult or strenuous workout? The type of active recovery activity will determine the benefits to your body.

Active recovery, generally speaking, helps reduce soreness, helps keep muscles flexible, increases blood flow, reduces lactic acid buildup in muscles, and helps to eliminate toxins in your body.

Even a simple active recovery activity like walking can have great benefits. It doesn’t require any special equipment and can help improve sleep, memory, your ability to think and learn, and help reduce anxiety.

Swimming not only gets your blood flowing, but has also been found to improve athletes’ performance the next day, when used as an active recovery session. Swimming and water aerobics are gentle on your joints while still giving you a full-body activity to stay on track with your fitness goals and lead an active lifestyle.

No matter the activity you choose for your rest or active recovery day, simply make sure you’re moving your body. Being active each day is great for your physical and mental health. 

If you need more motivation to stay active or would like to find like-minded people working toward their fitness goals, stop by an EōS Fitness near you and try a Complimentary 7-Day Pass.

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