The Difference Between Active Recovery and Rest Days


The world of health and fitness can sometimes be a tricky one to navigate, especially if you’re just getting started on your journey. There is a fair share of jargon floating around which often creates confusion.

One term that has been popular as of late is ‘active recovery’, which essentially is a fancy way of saying ‘low intensity exercise’. As opposed to ‘passive recovery’ (or simply a ‘rest day’) which usually involves taking a complete break from training for a whole day; active recovery involves simply exercising at a lower pace than normal.

Lowering the intensity of your practice allows you to still get some beneficial movement in, but avoids putting too much strain on the body, which would interfere with the recovery process. Active recovery may also include performing specific exercises aimed at increasing the speed of recovery.

Reasons for active recovery:

There are a number of benefits to active recovery. Some of the most notable include:

  • Improving skill development – by having a chance to focus more on technique or form.
  • Reducing stress levels – acting as a form of moving meditation.
  • Maintaining mobility – by moving your joints through full ranges of motion.
  • Burning extra calories – helping to maintain a favourable body composition.

Ways to perform active recovery:

There are a number of ways in which you can perform active recovery. Here are three of the most effective:

1. A 50% Session

As the name suggests, a fifty percent session simply involves exercising at half of your usual intensity. That might mean performing your normal weight training session but lifting half the volume, or going for a run at a much slower pace than usual. The reduced physical demand allows you to focus on improving your skills and technique. It’s a chance for you to grease the groove.


2. Walking

A simple brisk walk is a great way to Increase blood flow to your muscles, accelerating the recovery process. It also gives you an excuse to get outside and connect with nature, allowing you a chance to reboot and clear your head.


3. Mobility Work

Mobility work simply means exploring full ranges of motion throughout the various joints in your body. You can employ a variety of techniques including stretching, foam rolling and resistance band drills to free up areas of tension. Not only will this improve your posture and reduce your injury risk, having mobile joints will also allow you to get into more stable positions, increasing the amount of force you can deliver.


Find a balance

Like many things in life, recovery is a balancing act. It’s important to listen to your body and determine whether you need a day of complete rest, or whether you can in fact perform some active recovery. Experiment with a few of the ideas mentioned above and find what works for you.

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