After a workout, your body is tired and sore, and more exercise is probably the last thing you want to do. It seems counterproductive, right? Won’t more exercise only make you more sore?
As much as you might want to plop down on the couch after a breezy run or hefty leg day, staying active after you exercise may actually help those tired legs recover.
Behold, the power of active recovery. Below, we’ll explain what active recovery is and why implementing it into your workout routine can help you feel better than ever.
What Is Active Recovery?
So, what does active recovery mean? Active recovery is low-intensity exercise done after a workout. Rather than passive rest, like lying down, active recovery is about keeping the body moving to increase blood flow. This has been shown to help your body recover after an intense workout.1
Low-intensity exercise may include activities such as walking, cycling, swimming, yoga, and Tai Chi. A light jog after a tough workout can help your body feel less tight and sore the next day. Even stretching and foam rolling are effective active recovery options.
Why Active Recovery Matters
So you know what active recovery is, but why does it matter?
Simply put, active recovery matters because it helps restore your muscles after a strenuous workout. Active recovery allows the rest your muscles need to rebuild after high-intensity exercise. It also helps with injury prevention as your body cools down.
Without proper recovery, you can end up feeling fatigued, become more prone to injury, and less likely to perform at your best during your next training session.
The Science Behind Active Recovery
Exercise affects multiple parts of the body. Looking closer, the underlying science behind active recovery illuminates why it works. This happens in two crucial parts of the body: the muscles and the cardiovascular system.
Active Recovery Helps Rebuild Muscles
Whenever you exercise, you’re putting stress on your body that breaks down the tissue in your muscles. The recovery phase is all about rebuilding those tissues.
Active recovery stimulates blood flow, which supplies muscles with blood and oxygen. The cells in your blood repair the damaged muscle tissue. While your body will still recover with passive rest, active recovery accelerates this process so your muscles can rebuild more quickly.
Active Recovery Helps Stabilize the Cardiovascular System
Exercise also affects the cardiovascular system, otherwise known as the system that circulates blood from your heart to the rest of your body.
When we exercise, our cardiovascular system has to adapt to keep our body stable, also known as homeostasis. After a workout, the cardiovascular system has to readjust during the transition from a pumping heart rate to a resting one.
Active recovery keeps your blood circulating evenly, which aids the cardiovascular system’s return to stability after exercise.2
Benefits of Incorporating Active Recovery
The increase in blood flow helps your tired muscles receive blood and oxygen so they can recover faster, further preventing muscle fatigue. But that’s not the only benefit you stand to gain from active recovery workouts. There are many others, including:
- Flushing lactic acid buildup – During a high-intensity workout, our bodies produce more lactic acid than usual, a substance that carries oxygen through the body. Lactic acid is a naturally occurring substance that’s perfectly healthy, but excess buildup of it can cause symptoms such as muscle fatigue and cramps. Active recovery can flush those pockets of build-up clean.3
- Reducing soreness – High-intensity exercise breaks down our muscles, which is in part why your muscles feel sore after working out.4 Active recovery catalyzes an increase in blood flow, which can help ease inflammation and the rebuilding of muscle.
- Cleansing toxins – The increase in blood flow prompts better circulation, which in turn can help cleanse the body of toxins from food waste, pollution, and bacteria.
Our Top Tips for Effective Active Recovery
The truth is, active recovery shouldn’t feel like a chore. In fact, it can and should be an enjoyable part of your workout routine. It opens the door for new, exciting exercise styles and movements.
Here are our top tips so you can make the most of your active recovery routine:
- Do something different – Choose a gentle exercise that is different from your main workout. A light jog, walking, cycling, yoga, Tai chi—there’s something for everyone.
- Move for 6–10 minutes – Active recovery doesn’t need to last an hour. Whatever activity you choose, even doing it for 6 to 10 minutes can make for an effective active recovery session.
- Designate an Active Recovery Day – What is an active recovery day? Just how it sounds: a single day you dedicate to gentle exercise to recover from the workouts during your week. Implementing a recovery day into your routine can promote restful rejuvenation.
- Know your timing – Recovery timing matters. Active recovery is thought to be most effective and beneficial directly following your more intense workout.1 That said, active recovery days and active recovery at other times of the day can also promote muscle recovery and blood-flow benefits.
Keep these tips in mind so you can discover what active recovery routine is best for you. Read the section below for a breakdown of recovery timing.
Maximizing Your Active Recovery Routine
There are three different types of active recovery, so you can find the option that works best in your routine:
- Rest days
These different types are all about the timing of recovery. Knowing when to implement active recovery can help improve your athletic performance and ensure you’re feeling strong during and after your most strenuous workout.
Recovery Between Intervals
Many workouts include interval training, or exercise that alternates between periods of work and rest.
Instead of stopping completely during these rest periods, keep your body moving. Stretching or hopping in place during the brief rest period keeps your blood flowing for a strong workout and faster recovery.
A cooldown period directly follows your workout. The high-intensity portion of the work is done, so gentle exercise helps transition your body from work to rest.
After a hard workout, try 10 minutes of light exercise, whether it’s jogging, walking, or cycling. This will help reduce stiffness and muscle pain, so you don’t feel as much muscle soreness the next day.
A rest day doesn’t have to mean you can’t get your body moving. A day or two following your workout, doing a light exercise can help your muscles recover.
If your body is still sore days after the workout, active recovery is a great solution for you. A few minutes of stretching or a gentle yoga routine can ease that muscle pain and leave you feeling brand new.
Two Common Mistakes to Avoid in Active Recovery
While active recovery is low-impact and therefore low-risk generally speaking, there are some routines you’ll want to avoid. Be wary of these mistakes to avoid during active recovery to prevent injury:
- Overtraining – Active recovery should be gentle exercise, not another workout. Your body needs rest, so stay away from active recovery routines that require more than 50% of the effort you gave in your core workout. Remember: rest is just as important as the workout itself.
- Not stretching – Whatever your choice of activity during your active recovery routine, don’t forget to stretch. Stretching properly helps prevent straining injuries and can ease muscle pain.
Choosing the Right Active Recovery Products
Active recovery is all about the action, and our action begins with our feet. So the first step to incorporating active recovery into your routine is finding the right footwear.
So, what are recovery shoes exactly? Active recovery shoes are designed to provide extra support after a hard workout. We’ve got recovery shoes and orthotic insoles that’ll kickstart your active recovery journey.
The Rejuvenate Recovery Sandal is the go-to recovery shoe. After a tough workout, slip off your sneakers and slip into this sandal to keep moving without missing a beat.
The Rejuvenate Recovery sandal is textured and cushioned for comfort while also designed to maintain balance and pressure distribution. All of this makes for the ideal recovery shoe to bring relief to your tired feet, whether you’re walking the beach or a sunny trail.
Add some extra support to your shoes with our Active Insole. Our insole is contoured around the heel and arches so you get complete foot contact. It can also be trimmed to give you the perfect fit.
Designed with a cushioned shock dot in the heel for added shock absorption, our Active Insole is perfect for both your high-intensity workout and your recovery, so you never need to change your shoes.
Our second insole option, the Relief Insole, provides support for daily use. Add them to your sneakers, work boots, or even your everyday shoes for constant, soothing comfort.
Our Relief Insole provides support and may ease leg or foot pain. Its arch support reduces pronation, realigning the feet back to their natural position. This relieves aches, helps stability, and gives you control of your walk.
Our Walk Strider Sneaker is for you performance walkers. Its First Ray Technology is anti-roll and promotes stability, perfect for your active recovery.
Designed for maximum flexibility and stability with rebound cushioning, this sneaker will leave you feeling comfortable and strong so you can walk the walk of active recovery.
Maximize Your Active Recovery With Vionic
There you have it: Active recovery is low-intensity exercise done after a workout to get your blood flowing and rebuild those muscles to be stronger than ever. Just 10 minutes of light activity after an intense workout can flush out lactic acid build-up, reduce muscle soreness, and get you on your feet for the next day’s feat.
With Vionic shoes and insoles, you can (actively) rest assured you’ll be supported through the toughest workouts and the most refreshing active recovery sessions. We offer various products designed to support your active recovery journey. From men’s slippers to women’s comfort slippers to high-performance and recovery shoes, we have everything you need to enhance your post-workout recovery.
- Zambon, Veronica. “What to know about active recovery.” MedicalNewsToday. 21 January, 2021. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/active-recovery
- Romero, Steven A et al. “The cardiovascular system after exercise.” Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985) vol. 122,4 (2017): 925-932. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00802.2016
- MIllard, Elizabeth. “Should You Practice Active Recovery?” GoodRX Health. 24 March, 2022. https://www.goodrx.com/well-being/movement-exercise/active-recovery
- McCallum, Katie. “Is Lactic Acid Buildup Really What Causes Muscle Soreness After a Workout?” Houston Methodist Leading Medicine. 19 October, 2021. https://www.houstonmethodist.org/blog/articles/2021/oct/is-lactic-acid-buildup-really-what-causes-muscle-soreness-after-a-workout/