Rest days are essential since they allows muscle to recover from intense workouts, regenerate and grow. Fitness enthusiasts who do workouts right are diligent in incorporating at least 2 rest days in their routines. Now, if you still want to get some gains out of your rest days, you may need to get into an active recovery day, which is our topic for today’s post.

What Is Active Recovery Exactly?

Active recovery refers to low-intensity exercises that are performed following routines of higher intensities. It is used to supplement recovery, improve performance and provides other benefits.

Discover more about the advantages of this method and how you can make it a part of your rest day. This article will also cover different ways to do active recovery and precautions you need to remember before performing the method.

The Importance Of Active Recovery

To convince you some more, you need to learn about its advantages. Here are several of its perks of you get into active recovery days:

1. Accelerates Muscle Regeneration

Active recovery helps the muscles recuperate by increasing blood flow without putting excess strain on the joints and the muscles. It helps harmonise high-intensity workout sessions and facilitates optimal muscle recovery.

2. Reduces Muscle Fatigue

The method actually decreases fatigue that results from high-intensity training. According to this study by Mika et. al. in 2016, active recovery was successful in minimising fatigue experienced in targeted muscles of canoeists and football players who participated.

3. Maintains Consistent Workout Habits

Going to the gym is a commitment and most of us do not want to slack off in that department. A great deal of fitness buffs do not want to lose momentum so they take charge of their routines by incorporating this method. By doing lighter exercises during your rest days, it entails that you are going to stick better to your training regimen.

4. Eliminates Blood Lactase

High-intensity workouts are fulfilling. However, during performance, blood lactate might build up and lead to a boost of hydrogen ions within the body. The build-up in turn results in muscle fatigue and contractions. Performing light exercises can help in clearing blood lactate as explained in the study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences in 2010.

Active Recovery And Passive Recovery: Are They Similar?

I have explained earlier that active recovery refers to performing low-intensity exercises after doing high-intensity training. The method utilises non-rigorous, gentle motions.

On the other hand, passive recovery is simple resting – it does not involve any type of movement. The individual only needs to lie back or sit down. Both methods have their advantages – just choose the type of recovery method that your body and routine require.

The Different Kinds of Active Recovery Workouts

The method comes in 3 common types.

1. In-Between Workouts

You can incorporate active recovery during training. This means performing light, dynamic stretching movements to reduce fatigue or walking around the gym between strength-building sessions or HIIT routines.

2. After Workouts

You can use this method as a cooldown following intense training. This is due to the fact that it helps decrease levels of blood lactate in the body. It also helps the body retune itself so you are ready to take on the next strenuous phase of your routine.

3. Complete Rest Days

Rest days are a time when your muscles try to recuperate. To incorporate the method, opt for low-impact exercises like yoga or swimming.

A Few Tips For Starting Active Recovery

If you want to include the method to your routine, there are key factors that you have to consider. For starters, create a schedule for the routine – check your schedule and reserve days that you want to use strictly for active recovery.

Once you have added low-impact activities in your routine, aim to switch your exercises up every now and then. For instance, you can modify your training and recovery schedule every 2 weeks to further elevate recovery. Changing it will also keep the momentum going.

Active Recovery Exercises You Can Do

This particular recovery method does not entail individuals to go all out when it comes to physical activities. Be sure to keep things at a slow pace since you are not actually on your regular high-impact training sessions. Here are some examples of recovery exercises that you can add to your rest days.

1. Swimming

One example of a low-intensity exercise is swimming since this activity will not put too much strain on the muscles and joints. A study showed that swimming as a recovery method, combined with HIIT training, improved the performances of triathletes the following day.

3. Tai Chi

Regular practice of tai chi helps improve strength for both the upper and lower parts of the body. Research has also proven that tai chi provides many benefits from improving aerobic fitness to easing aches and pains.

3. Yoga

Yoga offers many health and mental benefits for all of us. Apart from improving mindfulness and wellbeing, it also helps regulate the blood glucose levels of the body, enhances one’s posture and minimises musculoskeletal pains.

4. Walking

Walking will not entail you to put in lots of effort. Whether leisurely or brisk, walking improves blood circulation which is integral to muscle recovery. Walking also helps minimise soreness and stiffness plus it allows you to de-stress. You can opt for a slow jog of course if you want some variety in your walking routines.

5. Light Resistance Training

Light lifting exercises are an effective active recovery option since this also boosts blood flow. Optimal blood circulation allows for efficient provision of nutrients to tissues without putting excessive strain on them. However, skip this type of activity if you experience soreness and aches from a previous workout.

6. Cycling

Cycling is another good recovery exercise although you have to make sure to cycle at a relaxed, unhurried pace. Going slow will not place massive pressure on the joints. You can cycle outdoors or just use a stationary bicycle if the weather does not agree.

7. Activation Exercises for the Core and Hip

Make sure your body is in prime form before high-impact workouts by strengthening the capabilities of your core and hips. Work them during your rest days by performing activities like planks, dead bugs or bodyweight glute exercises.

8. Myofascial Release with Foam Rollers or Massage Guns

If you are not too keen on moving during your rest days, you can opt for a myofascial release with foam rollers or massage guns for recovery. Delayed onset sore muscles can be eased by using such devices – foam rollers and massage guns help in easing tightness and decreases inflammation. It also helps improve one’s range of motion. Read this article if you are curious whether massage guns are better than foam rollers.

9. Rollerblading

You may view ‘blading as a very outdated hobby, but it makes you move thus it keeps you fit. Rollerblading or inline skating is another low-intensity recovery workout that you can use for a productive rest day. Other than being a fun activity, rollerblading also works out a variety of muscle groups for injury prevention, promotes better blood circulation, tests your motor skills and makes for an excellent cardio exercise.

10. Hiking

Feed two birds with one stone by going for a nice hike. Hiking will not only work your muscles out nicely; it will also help strengthen your mental health. Just make sure to consider the ground you walk on – choose one with uneven terrain so the strength of your ankles, core and glutes are challenged.

Any Precautions?

Exercises for recovery days should not make you feel sore or in pain. In case you feel pain during this routine, it is wise that you must stop whatever you’re doing and just take a complete rest. You should also see your physician and ask for his or her advice.

You also need to avoid certain recovery exercises, or avoid them altogether if you have had a sports injury. Your physician or physical therapist can suggest active recovery exercises that are not harmful for people recuperating from injuries like simple stretches or swimming.


Active recovery aims to allow the body to prime itself before the next workout. That way, your body will not feel sore and stiff but refreshed and ready for another round in the gym. Just view this method as a way to allow nutrients to penetrate the body’s tissues at an optimal pace so the muscles get to recover faster.

1. How to recover from overtraining?

To fully recover from overtraining, all you need to do is take a rest. You have to cease your training for a set period of time – the time you need to rest depends on the sport and the activity level you have engaged yourself with.

2. What are the differences between HIIT and LISS?

HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) is shorter in duration and higher in terms of intensity compared to LISS (Low-Intensity Steady-State), which takes longer and is lower when it comes to intensity.

3. Will weight training make you look bulky? (Common question from women)

That women will bulk up with heavier weight training is a common misconception. The fact is women do not have sufficient testosterone to gain loads of bulk – testosterone is essential in muscle building and women only have around 15 to 20 times less of the hormone compared to men.