Picking the right exercise for your goals can be important, but so too is managing muscle recovery.
Whenever people talk about exercise, the focus is often on the intensity of training, the duration of the workout and the type of exercise being undertaken. What often flies under the radar is the importance of rest. However, this is changing. As more and more trainers are starting to see, rest can be even more important than the exercise itself.
Why muscle recovery is so important
Exercise puts our body under stress. It responds by producing adrenalin and the stress hormone cortisol. The more intense the workout the more hormones your body produces. Muscles fill up with lactic acid and exercise becomes more difficult to maintain.
The next day, muscles can feel sore and leaden. Doing any kind of exercise or lifting weights can feel much more difficult than usual. This is known as muscle fatigue and its effects can last a day or two depending on how stressful your lifestyle is.
Many people see this as a sign that the exercise is working. However, it is a mistake to keep going at the same intensity. You need rest to allow muscle recovery and for your body to repair the damage. Once that’s done, your muscles will be slightly stronger than they were before. You’ll be able to exercise harder for longer, and build your fitness.
Rest and recovery, then, are a crucial part of this process – perhaps even more so than the exercise itself. Without it the muscles can’t be built back, your body will experience more strain and you may be at risk of injury or other health complications.
Physical and mental health
Too much exercise can be bad for your body just as too little can be, but what’s only now being understood is that it can also have an impact on our mental health. Research from Sports Medicine found that physical exercise and psychological stress are very much intertwined. Cortisol is a stress hormone and when that is produced it impacts our bodies in many ways.
Studies show that over exercise can cause many of the health problems that people are trying to avoid such as digestive problems, obesity and even an increased risk of heart attack.
Exercise releases cortisol just like any other form of stress. This can lead to mental health problems and increased levels of anxiety. Research published in the Lancet Psychiatry Journal found that doing exercise more than 23 times a month or for longer than 90 minute sessions is associated with worse mental health.
This may be one reason why a recent study found that high school athletes experience double the rates of depression compared to the rest of the population. They are constantly under strain, expected to push through the pain barrier and achieve results for their schools – all while maintaining a regular school curriculum.
This can be particularly problematic for people who already have stressful and high pressure lifestyles. Many people undertake exercise to help them unwind from their busy lifestyles or to keep themselves fit. However, overdoing things can worsen the exact problems they are looking to address.
Taking time to rest
Rest and recovery sessions, therefore, are a crucial link in the exercise chain. You may benefit from mixing four days of high intensity training with three days of rest of moderate exercise. So called cool down exercises can help circulate blood to the body, repairing muscles and aiding recovery.
Sports massages can unwind tight muscles, increasing elasticity that will improve performance and decrease the risk of injury, while a good night’s sleep will give your body the time it needs to heal itself.
Supplements like Mitopure, a purified form of urolithin A, can also be taken to improve muscle function. One study in older adults found that a daily dose of Mitopure significantly improved hand and leg muscle endurance after only two months. It has also been shown to trigger gene expression associated with mitochondrial function and metabolism, as well as increase hamstring leg muscle strength!
While no replacement for regular exercise and nutritious eating, Mitopure can be used to supplement a healthy lifestyle as you get older to aid muscle function and boost energy. It does this by helping cells to renew their mitochondria, famously known as the powerhouse of the cell. Our muscles use up a lot of energy, so there are equally a lot of mitochondria inside muscle cells. They power muscle movement and using supplements to boost cellular energy in mitochondria can boost your energy too!
So, if you’re looking to build your fitness – for any reason – incorporating rest and recovery into your weekly schedule will be every bit as important as the exercise itself.
Photograph: Samer Daboul/Pexels
The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.