Focusing on post-exercise recovery 

Published 11:39 am Tuesday, April 4, 2023

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Whether you’re an athlete or just want to stay strong and balanced, you probably know that a good workout can leave you feeling invigorated and energized. However, what you do after you leave the gym is just as important as what happens during your visit. In fact, how you recover after exercise can have a major impact on your performance, risk of injury and your overall health and well being.    

During exercise, the body undergoes several physiological changes, including increased heart rate, blood flow and increased oxygen consumption. These changes apply stresses to the muscles, creating lactic acid and other waste products, which can contribute to muscle soreness and fatigue.

So just what is “post-exercise recovery?” This term refers to the period of time after a workout  when your body is working to repair and rebuild muscle tissue, replenish energy stores and remove waste from muscle tissues. 

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The post-exercise cool down is the transition from intense physical activity to a more typical activity level. This allows the body to gradually return to its pre-exercise state by gradually decreasing the heart rate, breathing and blood flow to the muscles. 

Hydration is key to optimizing exercise results. Proper levels of hydration help to replenish lost fluids, flush out waste products and support muscle strength and growth. The body also uses water to bring valuable nutrients to muscle cells for repair. 

Remember, muscle is 70% water, so if you’re dehydrated it’s like running on flat tires. In fact, even mild dehydration can have a negative impact on athletic performance. Don’t think proper hydration is that important? Well, as little as  a 1.5% loss of the body’s water can cause symptoms. Most folks can tolerate a 3-4% decrease in total body water without difficulty or adverse health effects, but just a 5-8% decrease can cause dizziness and fatigue. Loss of 10% of total body water can cause physical and mental deterioration and a loss of 15-25% of the body’s water is fatal. 

Rest is also essential after a workout, as it allows the body to recover. Post-exercise rest offers several benefits, including muscle repair and growth. It also helps prevent injury by giving the body time to recover. Even though exercise can be a great stress reliever, it can also cause mental stress if the body hasn’t the time to recuperate. 

Think of rest as an “active” part of your exercise regimen. Remember, folks don’t strengthen muscles or lose fat during a workout, but rather hours later, while at rest. rest is truly the glue that holds your program together.

Both rest and hydration work together in post-workout recovery, because they both assist in the body’s re-cooperation from exercise induced stresses. Neglecting either of these crucial aspects of exercise recovery may lead to decreased performance, injury or, at the very least, lack of progress. Next week, we’ll continue with components of exercise recovery, including massage and nutrition.