When we were younger, we could get away bursts of running and exercise. There was no stiffness or aches the day after exercising like there is as we get older and over 50. Our young bodies were full of energy and naturally recovered so quickly.
With our bodies needing more TLC as we get older, we must not give up on exercising. We need to understand why we get the stiff muscles and do what we can to reduce the aches.
What causes the stiffness after exercising?
There are various reasons for being stiff after exercising. The most important point to remember is that our muscles are constantly being broken down and repaired. The damage occurs to the proteins that make up the muscle fibers. In order to heal your muscles, your body produces hormones and along with the macronutrient protein, synthesize new satellite cells. The new cells that repair the damaged muscle fibers will inevitably cause stiffness.
Lactic acid (or rather, lactate) is produced in response to demanding physical activities that stress the muscles and cause an increased need for energy. In this way, it’s a response that naturally makes you want to slow down and rest when your muscles are stressed and you’re exerting lots of energy. The lactic acid that remains within the muscle fibers will also create tighter muscles and a sense of stiffness.
You may have noticed a recent trend of folks exercising while wearing sleeves over their calves or arms. Wearing compression clothing before and after a tough workout is a relatively new form of recovery treatment that, according to the research, maybe an effective solution. The pressure from the tight clothing can improve circulation; specifically, the venous return of blood back to the heart, which helps remove metabolic waste from muscle and promotes the flow of oxygenated blood to help the tissue repair and rebuild. In studies on the recovery effect of compression clothing, some researchers were able to use specific measurements of metabolic byproducts from exercise, such as creatine kinase. Subjects who wore compression clothing in the period after strenuous exercise had lower CK-levels than the subjects who performed the same workout but did not wear compression clothing.
Sauna or Hot Tub
The heat from a sauna or hot tub increases the body’s circulation, which removes metabolic waste products like hydrogen ions. Increasing the body temperature carries oxygen and other nutrients necessary to help repair tissue used during the workout.
Stretch and Gentle Movement
Stretching before and after a workout supports performance and recovery in several ways, such as by increasing blood flow and improving flexibility.
Try dynamic stretches before exercise that involve moving your body (rather than holding deep stretches), which boosts circulation. Following your exercising, use ice packs, get a massage and take warm baths to increase circulation and help manage soreness you may be feeling. Deep stretches are recommended for after exercise and also during your recovery time.
A healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of vitamins and minerals will help your body heal effectively. Give your body the tools it needs to repair and rebuild your muscles. Antioxidant-rich foods, such as berries and dark green vegetables, will also aid in the recovery process. Feed your muscles with high protein, low carb snacks after exercising to help your body to recover.
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