February 19, 2020: Helpful Tips for Post-Exercise Recovery, An Athletic Trainer’s Perspective
When I think of recovery, I consider it as getting over something or getting back to my normal self. According to Dictornary.com, recovery means, “The regaining of or the possibility of regaining something lost or taken away, restoration or return to health from sickness or to any former and better state or condition.” With this definition in mind, how does recovery play into post-exercise? An athlete's post-exercise routine may consist of stretching, as stretching can be helpful in our recovery process. According to Harvard Health “stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.” Stretching is not only beneficial for our muscles but it is helpful in our overall well-being. According to the American Council on Exercise, stretching can “decrease stress, reduce pain and stiffness, improve health, enhance range of motion, improve function, may reduce risk of injury, enhance performance, improve blood flow and circulation, minimize wear and tear on joints, and improve quality of life.”
In a recent systematic review article from Frontiers in Physiology, a study was conducted on evaluating the impact of recovery techniques on delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which is perceived fatigue, muscle damage, and inflammatory markers after physical activity. They examined massage, compressive garments, water immersion, electrostimulation, stretching, anti-inflammatory interventions relying on cold exposure such as cryotherapy, and active recovery such as a low impact form of exercise like riding a stationary bike or swimming. At the conclusion of the study it was found that massage seemed to be most effective for both DOMS and perceived fatigue while massage and cold exposure such as water immersion and cryotherapy helped with inflammation. I would suggest an athlete devote time to stretching post-exercise as well as using a foam roller, assuming they are unable to get a massage, in order to maximize recovery and relieve soreness in their muscles. If cold water immersion or cryotherapy is not available, considering following the stretches and foam rolling with icing using a cold pack.
Ultimately, we know stretching can help with muscle soreness and flexibility, but it should not be painful, and it will not prevent against injuries on its own. Some other topics to keep in mind beside stretching for post-exercise recovery are hydration, diet/nutrition, and sleep. Drinking half of your body weight in ounces is recommended in staying hydrated which can aid with muscle soreness. Making sure you have a balanced diet that consist of complex carbs, good fats, and protein will not only help get you through a practice or game, but can aid in muscle recovery and overall brain function. Getting 6-8 hours of sleep will help in mental and physiological recovery which assists with complete full body recovery. If you have any questions regarding the information presented here, please reach out to me through our email listed below.
April Locke, ATC
Ivy Rehab Physical Therapy, Head of Athletic Training
Dictionary.Com. 2020 January. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/recovery?s=t
The Importance of Stretching. Harvard Health Publishing. 2019 September 25. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-stretching
Matthews, Jessica. 10 Reasons Why You Should Be Stretching. American Council on Exercise. 2017 April 19. https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/expert-articles/6387/10-reasons-why-you-should-be-stretching
Dupuy O., Duzi W., Theurot D., Bosquet L., and Dugue B. An Evidence-Based Approach for Choosing Post-exercise Recovery Techniques to Reduce Markers of Muscle Damage, Soreness, Fatigue, and Inflammation: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Physiology. 2018 April 26. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/stretching/art-20047931?pg=2&reDate=21012020