Active Rest: What Is It and How Can You Benefit From It?

If you work out, you’ve probably heard about rest and recovery. You may also be wondering what’s the difference between the two and how can you use the concept to make your workouts more effective.

The major difference is the level of activity. Rest days are just what they sound like. You might lie around on your couch watching movies or just avoid doing anything strenuous. Active rest, or active recovery, days mean you engage in exercise, but it’s significantly less intense than your usual workouts.

Both passive and active rest days are important for your wellbeing.

Discover how to recuperate and use your time between gym sessions to help you reach your fitness goals.

Benefits of Rest and Recovery:

  1. Prevent injuries. Taking time off reduces the risk of accidents and overuse injuries. You’re giving your body a chance to heal between workouts and replenish its energy. You’re also fighting mental fatigue.
  2. Reduce muscle soreness. Do your biceps and triceps ache the day after you lift heavy weights? Some studies suggest that active rest can help you build muscles with less discomfort. It may be due to moving around and keeping your blood circulating.
  3. Make more progress. With active rest, in addition to keeping blood and nutrients circulating, you’re burning calories, so you continue slimming down and toning up. Plus, both passive and active rest allow your body to repair microtears in your muscles that occur while exercising, so you grow stronger.

How to Schedule Rest and Recovery Days:

  1. Follow up tough sessions. Intense workouts will deliver more results if you slow down afterwards. Otherwise, those efforts go to waste, and you could actually undermine your fitness.
  2. Develop a system. Taking regular rest and recovery days is a sound plan. Maybe you’ll scale back each Tuesday, or you could have floating days that you build into your training schedule.
  3. Spot overtraining. If you’re often tired and irritable and you’re experiencing more injuries, it’s probably wise to take some time off.
  4. Listen to your body. How much rest and recovery you need is an individual matter. Pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after your workouts. Find a balance that allows you to make gains and enjoy yourself.

How to Spend Your Active Rest and Recovery Days:

  1. Do gentle aerobics. The general rule for an active rest day is to work out at about one half of your usual intensity. Depending on your fitness level, that might mean going for a short run or taking a walk. Biking and swimming are also helpful options.
  2. Try yoga. Many yoga poses can be restorative. Sign up for a yin yoga class that focuses on static stretching or find an all-levels community class in your neighborhood. Buy a book that will help you create your own routine to do at home or practice along with a video.
  3. Lift light weights. Lifting heavy weights will build up your muscles as long as you respect your limits. Spend some days lifting half your usual load and concentrate on correcting your form.
  4. Cross train. Varying your workouts keeps things interesting and helps you to master new skills. When you’re cross training on an active rest day, just be sure to pick an activity that allows you to maintain a moderate pace.
  5. Have fun. Live it up while you’re recovering. Visit a water park or play hide-and-seek with your kids. Do anything that makes you smile and gets you moving around a little.

Adequate rest and recovery protect you from injuries and helps you get the results you want from working out. Enjoy your downtime, knowing that you’re growing stronger and fitter.