Many people question, What is Active Recovery in Sport?  And what benefits does it provide?

The recovery you do after you exercise is just as important as the exercise itself. So what is Active recovery in sport?  If you’ve ever wondered why sometimes you feel great after your workout and at other times it hurts to move, it’s because the type of recovery you complete affects the inflammation, soreness, and lactic acid build-up in your body, as well as your risk of injury. To understand efficient recovery, you first must know the two types – active and passive.

What is active recovery in sport


If you’re wondering what does active recovery means, then first think about how you would normally spend a rest day.

Usually, this would consist of ‘passive recovery’ – a day of complete relaxation without any physical activity.

In contrast, an active recovery definition would include low-intensity exercise that promotes blood flow to the muscles, helping them to recover better and faster.

So what does active recovery do? By moving your body you’re in fact speeding up the recovery process, but here’s the catch: you need to be active enough to increase blood flow, but gentle enough to allow your muscles to heal.

On active recovery days, you should pay attention to your breathing and make sure you choose a form of exercise that optimizes active recovery.

Which Recovery Method Is Best?

A great deal of research has gone into examining both types of recovery and the physical and chemical effects on your body, and there is a clear winner: it’s active recovery in sport.

To best describe the magnitude of the benefits, one study looking at recovery in runners found that active recovery enabled them to run three times longer during their next run compared with those that used passive recovery.

Another study examining swimmers showed that active recovery dissipated 68% of the lactate that had accumulated in their blood, and would have otherwise settled in their tissues. These results are likely to occur as:

  • You keep getting a good amount of blood flow and lymph function after your strenuous exercise, bringing more oxygen to your tissues to keep you feeling good and avoiding the ‘fatigue’ crash
  • The increased blood flow helps reduce inflammation
  • You don’t build up as much lactic acid in your tissues, meaning that you minimise your post-workout soreness and stiffness
  • Keeping your heart rate at a higher level helps improve your endurance
  • Because you’re not focusing on going hard and fast, you get the opportunity to focus on maximising your technique.


active v passive recovery

What is active recovery in sport?

As any good athlete can tell you, allowing your body the opportunity to recover after exercise is just as important as the exercise itself. Failure to do so can lead to problems such as inflammation, lactate buildup, and overuse injuries.

What Happens When You’re Getting Pain Or Have An Injury?

If you’ve sustained an injury during your training or are starting to get pain when you exercise, you’ve got to be very mindful and careful about both your exercise and your recovery. This is to ensure that the movements you’re doing help you recover, and don’t worsen the damage.

The best way to know what you should and shouldn’t be doing to manage your pain is to book in with your physiotherapist. Here at Core Physio Clinic and Bothwell Medical Rooms, we perform comprehensive assessments to not only understand the extent of your injury but also exactly what has caused it. When we know the cause, we know what to do to help prevent it from coming back, as well as manage your current symptoms.

We love helping our patients stay healthy and active – and reach all of their training and exercise goals! Book your appointment online with our physio team.