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5 Ways to reduce muscle soreness after exercise

  • Dr. Steve Young
  • 3 Mar, 2023

Are you tired of feeling sore after your workouts? While muscle soreness is a natural part of exercising, it can be uncomfortable and make it difficult to stick to your fitness routine. Luckily, there are several ways to reduce muscle soreness after exercise. Here are five effective strategies to try:

Warm-up and cool down properly

Before you start your workout, it's essential to properly warm up your muscles. This can include light cardio, dynamic stretching, or foam rolling. Warming up gets more blood to your muscles and gets them ready for the activity to come. This lowers the chance of getting hurt and reduces soreness.

Similarly, cooling down after your workout can help your muscles recover and reduce soreness. A proper cool down can include static stretching or gentle movements to gradually bring your heart rate back to its resting state. This can also help prevent muscle stiffness and soreness the next day.

Stay hydrated

Proper hydration is key to maintaining optimal muscle function and reducing soreness after exercise. When you're dehydrated, your muscles can't perform at their best, and you're more likely to experience cramps and soreness.

To stay hydrated, drink water before, during, and after your workout. The amount of water you need depends on your body weight, the intensity of your workout, and the temperature and humidity of your environment. As a general rule, aim to drink at least eight cups of water a day, and more if you're exercising heavily or in hot weather.

Incorporate active recovery

Active recovery is a way to help your body recover after a workout by doing low-intensity exercises or movements. This can include walking, gentle yoga, or swimming. By staying active, you're increasing blood flow to your muscles, which can reduce soreness and stiffness.

Active recovery can also help flush out lactic acid, a waste product that can build up in your muscles during intense exercise and cause soreness. So instead of sitting on the couch after your workout, try some light activity to help your muscles recover.

Use a foam roller

Foam rolling is a popular technique used to reduce muscle soreness and improve flexibility. Foam rollers are cylindrical tools that you can use to apply pressure to your muscles and release tension. By rolling your muscles over the foam roller, you're helping to break up knots and adhesions, which can reduce soreness and improve mobility.

Foam rolling can be done before or after your workout, or even on rest days. It's a great way to target specific areas of soreness, such as your calves, quads, or back. If you're new to foam rolling, start with a softer foam roller and gradually work your way up to a firmer one as your muscles become more accustomed to the pressure.

Get enough rest

Rest is essential for muscle recovery and reducing soreness after exercise. When you exercise, you're essentially creating tiny tears in your muscle fibers, which then need time to repair and grow stronger. If you don't give your muscles enough time to heal, you could end up with long-lasting pain or even get hurt.

Make sure to get plenty of sleep and rest days between workouts. This will give your muscles time to heal and grow back, which will make you less sore and improve your fitness level. Getting enough rest can also help reduce stress, which can also cause muscle pain and tension.

Muscle soreness is a natural part of exercising, but it doesn't have to derail your fitness goals. By adding these five things to your routine, you can reduce muscle soreness, speed up your recovery, and keep your fitness journey on track. Remember to warm up and cool down properly, stay hydrated, incorporate active recovery, use a foam roller, and get enough rest.

References:

  • American Council on Exercise. (n.d.). Warming up and cooling down. Retrieved from https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/6593/warming-up-and-cooling-down
  • Institute of Medicine. (2004). Dietary reference intakes for water, potassium, sodium, chloride, and sulfate. Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/read/10925/chapter/7
  • Sawka, M. N., Burke, L. M., Eichner, E. R., Maughan, R. J., Montain, S. J., & Stachenfeld, N. S. (2007). American College of Sports Medicine position stand: Exercise and fluid replacement. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 39(2), 377–390. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0b013e31802ca597
  • Petraglia, F., & Ramacciotti, C. (2017). Active recovery: The forgotten component in sports conditioning. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 57(6), 707–708. https://doi.org/10.23736/S0022-4707.17.07420-9
  • Tihanyi, J., Gyulai, G., Fazekas, G., & Apor, P. (1997). Effects of high-speed swimming, cycling, and running on muscle soreness and plasma creatine kinase levels in elite triathletes. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 37(4), 274–279. PMID: 9475591
  • Cheatham, S. W., Stull, K. R., & Kolber, M. J. (2015). Comparison of a foam rolling session with active joint motion and without joint motion: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 38(9), 727–732. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmpt.2015.10.002
  • Macdonald, G. Z., Penney, M. D., Mullaley, M. E., Cuconato, A. L., Drake, C. D. J., Behm, D. G., & Button, D. C. (2013). An acute bout of self-myofascial release increases range of motion without a subsequent decrease in muscle activation or force. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27(3), 812–821. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e31825c2bc1
  • Bird, S. P. (2013). Sleep, recovery, and athletic performance: A brief review and recommendations. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 35(5), 43–47. https://doi.org/10.1519/SSC.0b013e3182a86226
  • Halson, S. L. (2014). Sleep in elite athletes and nutritional interventions to enhance sleep. Sports Medicine, 44(Suppl 1), S13–S23. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-014-0147-0

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