Recovery From Exercise: The Rest of the Story

Exercise can prevent-and lead to- illness and injury. We’ve been taught that working out improves health and physical performance. While this is true, training adds new stressors that stimulate the body’s physiology to change. A new workout intentionally damages muscle fibers, causing a short-term reduction in strength, speed and oxygen delivery. Our immune system then releases hormones and chemicals to minimize inflammation and start the repair process (Flores et al. 2011). The quality of rest after a workout, is as important as the quality of the workout.

Recovery repairs and rebuilds damaged muscle tissue during the rest period. Recovery is different in everybody’s physiology from workout protocols. Gender response to recovery varies. After intense weightlifting, men and women experience the same amount of muscle soreness, but women have a lower inflammatory response. It also takes longer for women to return to peak strength and flexibility after an intense workout (Flores et al. 2011). Genetic differences effect recovery time after strenuous exercise, some return to baseline quicker (Venckunas et al. 2012).

Here are some facts to consider when planning your workout program:

You need to have a well thought out training plan that includes recovery, and a variety of workouts with different intensity levels.

Your lifestyle can support or derail your training program. Getting proper sleep, eating a healthy and balanced diet, and reducing non-exercise stressors are key to restoring the body to homeostasis (internal balance). These lifestyle changes will improve your health, performance and conditioning.

Our neuromuscular systems can handle only so much stress. By adjusting training intensity and volume, and allow adequate rest and recovery, you will reduce inflammation and stress, stimulate growth, and improve your quality of life.

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