We all know that exercising regularly is good for our health. Too much exercise though, not so healthy… It’s easy to get carried away by the feel-good sensations you can get from exercise, whether you find it meditative, empowering, or therapeutic (or all three). But going full speed with your workouts every single day and never taking time to rest can backfire. Your body needs time to rest in between hard exercise sessions so that it can repair itself properly, and come back stronger. Plus, if all your body gets is physical stress without rest, you can reach the point of diminishing returns. Or to the point at which more exercise doesn’t result in any more progress. But that doesn’t mean you need to avoid all activity on your rest days.
Active recovery workouts gives your body a break
Active recovery workouts let you get in some activity while giving your muscles and joints the rest they need to bounce back stronger than ever. An active recovery day features easy workouts equivalent to no more than 60 to 70 percent of your maximum effort (low to moderate intensity). For example, if you’re training for a marathon, you can use an active recovery day as an opportunity to take a gentle yoga class to work on flexibility.
Working at a lower intensity, as opposed to doing absolutely nothing, will help increase recovery from your previous workout by increasing blood flow to your muscles and tissues. Giving your circulation a little boost helps get nutrients (like amino acids and oxygen) to your muscles so they can repair themselves. It also helps flush out waste products that built up during exercise (like hydrogen ions and lactic acid) and contribute to muscle damage and fatigue.
Which workouts to do on active recovery days?
- Tai chi
Tai chi is a low impact form of martial arts. It’s characterised by slow, flowing movements, making it ideal for activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps our bodies calm down and recover from the stress of our intense workouts and daily lives. Tai chi is great for building strength and working on your balance. You will become aware of your whole body. Research shows tai chi offers a host of aerobic fitness-boosting, pain-relieving benefits. In addition it is also a classic mind-body exercise, so you’ll reap the meditative, stress-reducing benefits while you’re at it.
Yoga not only increases flexibility, but it also teaches proper breathing techniques and body control. In addition, an easy yoga flow also promotes blood flow to help repair your broken-down muscle tissues. Depending which classes you take or forms of yoga you’re practising, you’ll also work on being mindful.
Taking your workout to the pool is a great low-impact exercise option. Swimming relaxes your joints, and stretches your body. In addition, the water pressure helps improve circulation in the muscles, blood vessels, and heart. It’s also great for building cardiovascular endurance.
Swimming not your thing? Get in some steady-paced cardio by cycling instead. Hop on a bike and pedal away for a low-impact form of exercise. It lets you get in some cardiovascular exercise without all that pounding on your joints. You will improve improve circulation to the lower body, and it can be done at low intensities.
Tastes and preferences
Everyone has their own tastes and preferences, and that’s okay. Find a low impact workout that works for you and don’t forget to rest between intensive workouts. Your body needs it. Do you have a favourite low intensity workout that you like to do?