Active Recovery vs. Rest Day

Nov 22, 2022

This blog was written by Jenn Radd, a certified personal trainer at O2 Fitness Clubs at West Ashley in Charleston, South Carolina. Learn more about active recovery and more from Jenn when you book a complimentary session here!

The idea of working out on a rest day can seem a little...confusing.

You feel stiff and sore, and the idea of doing a workout feels pretty much like the last thing you want to do. This is your body's way of saying that you need to take some time off to recover. So what should we do: Do we rest or do we recover?

You may be surprised to know there's a difference between rest and recovery - but they're both important to do!

Keep reading to learn more about active recovery and how to use active recovery to maximize your rest days.

What is the difference between active recovery and rest days? 

A "rest day," by the gym-goers definition, is when you take a break from your regular workout routine and intense physical activity. Rest days allow your body to repair and recover to prevent injuries. When you take a rest day, you should use this time not in the gym to focus on other aspects of your health - for example, staying hydrated, researching nutrition, revisiting your fitness goals, and prepping your meals or training plan for the week!
Active recovery days are used as "reloading" days. The movement you do on an active recovery day is only to get your blood circulating and keep you active without causing damage to the body or muscles.
While active recovery and rest days are vital for your body and health, they have differences that play a huge role in our training and recovery processes. Giving the body the proper rest and movement can be beneficial and positively impact our bodies!

How long do you need to spend doing active recovery? 

If you're looking for an exact number of minutes or days you should do active recovery a week, we have some bad news... The answer to how long you should do active recovery is it depends!
In the same way you use lighter weights than one person or be more flexible than another, how much active recovery you need in your routine is subjective. Some people require one day while some require two. It all depends on the type of training, goals, and intensity that you're partaking in.
The best way to tell how long your active recovery day should be is to listen to your body when it's asking for it!

What exercises can you do for active recovery?

Again, active recovery days do involve movement or non-strenuous exercise. So, the best exercises you can do for active recovery are ones that feel good to you! Things like mobility, stretching, yoga, walking, or swimming are great ways to get moving on an active recovery day. (You can even follow your regular training program as long as you have little to no weight.)


Including BOTH of these days in your regular fitness routine is so important. Your body needs rest to grow muscles, lose weight, and see the results you're working so hard for! Once you start regularly making time for recovery you'll be amazed about how quickly you'll see yourself performing better, eating better, sleeping better, but also FEELING better.


Create a recovery routine that fits your body and your goals during a complimentary recovery session with a personal trainer!

Click here to book yours!

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