Is Active or Passive Recovery Better for Performance?

We weight up if binge watching TV or running is better to keep you body healthy

Answering the age-old question of what the quickest way to get back to full mobility after a hard workout, is one with many ifs and buts. We’ve already begun to look at what the best post-run solutions are to get you on the road asap. And whether your sleep and diet can help. But can further exercise, help repair your damaged body from exercise? There are two types of recovery techniques: active or passive recovery.

What’s happening during a recovery?

During a recovery, our bodies have a checklist to work through to make sure we’re tip top. The body needs to replenish its energy stores – generally done through nutrition and rest. The strains of exercise cause changes to the cells in our muscles. Most called them tears so to keep it simple, the body needs to repair these tears and strengthen them for when they’re subject to the same strain again. This is how muscles grow and can also be applied to your heart, a key part of your cardiac system and the engine room for runners.

As well as repairing your torn muscles, the body looks to flush itself of any harmful substances such as lactic acid. This acid must be removed from your system so that your blood maintains sufficient pH levels causing a more efficient recovery process.

Taking a break after a hard run.
Taking a break after a hard run.
What is Passive recovery?

Generally, most people look at rest (or passive recovery) as the best way to let your body heal. This is because if you’re doing nothing, then there’s no risk to your body. It does hold other benefits. By adding no extra strain to yourself your not fatiguing your body anymore. Theoretically meaning you’ll enhance your performance.

What is Active recovery?

Active recovery comes in many different variations but it’s generally believed that cooldown is one of the best forms of active recovery. Some runners will sometimes incorporate recovery runs into their routines. Say one day you run 8 miles at good pace, the next day you might do 3 very slowly. Both hold very similar benefits.

Continuing the flow of blood after an intense workout allows the body to rid itself of any nasties and continues to feed it with oxygen. This means that fatigued muscles can benefit from an extra course of oxygen which is beneficial to the recovery process.  Had the body not rid itself of said ‘nasties’ then our bodies the next day might feel very stiff and sore because of the lingering lactic acid present.

A passive recovery idea’s?

Quite literally, do nothing. Binge watch your favourite TV series. Just make sure your hydrated and eating the right stuff.

An active recovery plan?

We already looked at what makes a good warm down and an example of one is here. But, we’re not here to disappoint, so we have another plan lined up too!

Active recovery can include low-intensity exercises, light aerobic exercises and any type of active game that will especially relax your cognitive and mental processes since it’s not related to your actual daily training!

Stretching out her sores with yoga after a run.
Stretching out her sores with yoga after a run.

Low-intensity exercises like jogging with dynamic stretching, yoga and other mobility exercises can be really beneficial. Aerobic exercises like cycling and swimming will help your body recover pro-actively.

The aim of active recovery is to support the blood flow and therefore enhance the supply of important nutrients throughout the whole body. This will actively make the body’s recovery faster and help you keep those streaks alive.


Joe Tucker
the authorJoe Tucker
Joe is an aspiring fitness journalist looking to get his foot in the industry at A fair-weather runner and sparring sissy who occasionally enjoys rolling down hills ... on two wheels that is. Any story ideas? Feel free to DM him with any ideas.

Leave a Reply

eighteen − 8 =