Recovery: A Key Component for WellnessDec 29, 2023 ● By Lauren Falcone
Healthy exercise can be a positive contributor to everyday wellness for individuals with or without medical and chronic conditions. Yet, many people forget that the recovery process can be just as important as exercise when trying to improve the health of many systems of the body. Without rest, the body exists in a permanently injured state and will not improve or adapt adequately to the exercise.
Exercise creates microscopic tears in muscle tissue and during recovery our cells work to repair the tissue and muscle fibers, resulting in increased growth and strength within those muscles. For individuals with any form of medical condition, rest and recovery days are especially important. In addition to stress on the body caused by exercise, conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes or cerebral palsy add a level of stress that the body is already coping with. In these cases, the body may need extra time to adapt and heal.
Two types of recovery include active and passive recovery. Active recovery includes light gentle exercise such as walking, swimming, dynamic stretching, or yoga that increases blood flow to the muscles without the intensity of a more intense workout. Passive recovery is the simple act of resting between sets of exercise or lying down after an intense workout. Both are important, and determining which type is appropriate depends on the intensity of the exercise, the individual’s fitness level and how the body is feeling following the exercise. An individual coping with more fatigue may need more passive rest time in between exercises, while someone coping with increased spasticity, stiff or rigid muscles, may require more dynamic stretching.
Other forms of recovery include refueling through nutrition, rehydration or bodywork. Nutrition and rehydration are essential for restoring the body’s nutrients that were used as energy during exercise. According to the Mayo Clinic, “To help your muscles recover and to replace their glycogen stores, eat a meal that contains both carbohydrates and protein within two hours of your exercise session if possible. Consider a snack if your meal is more than two hours away.”
Drinking water after an exercise session flushes toxins out of the body, transports nutrients back into the cells and helps regulate body temperature and pH balance. Both are essential in repairing damaged muscle tissue. Bodywork is a term that encompasses various techniques designed to manipulate soft tissues of the body such as massage, acupuncture or chiropractic care. These techniques are designed to reduce muscle tension, improve circulation, reduce stress hormones, increase joint mobility and flexibility, and improve recovery of soft tissue injuries.
“The whole concept of exercise is to stress or challenge your body and then let it recover. As you stress your body it should adapt. As long as you do that repetitively and recover in between, you’re going to improve strength and fitness,” says University Hospitals pediatric sports medicine specialist Laura Goldberg, M.D., in Westlake, Ohio. “But if you don’t allow recovery, you’ll increase the risk of injury and decrease immune function, putting you at risk of illness.”
Just as we know that diet and nutrition play an important role in our overall health, a complementary recovery program can truly maximize the benefits of any fitness routine and improve overall wellness.
Lauren Falcone is a personal trainer, barre instructor and president/co-owner of Thrive Medical Fitness located at 1658 GAR Hwy., in Swansea, MA. Having been diagnosed with MS herself, she has a passion for helping those with medical and chronic conditions find their strength through exercise. For more information, call 401-440-5785 or visit ThriveStudio.org.