Well, the answer is no to strenuous exercise but YES to light movements, before I jump into the details of why.
It is dependent on the individual’s fitness level, training goals, history of injury and age.
Let's first look behind the skin and find out why we are sore to begin with. Muscle soreness or DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) is a consequence of tiny muscle fibre tearing, most commonly occurring after resistance training. This is the body way for recovering and regenerating muscle.
Don't be alarmed; while it sounds like intentionally tearing your muscles would be a bad thing, these micro-tears cause the muscle to grow and become stronger. These tears do need time to repair. Because your muscles need time to recuperate and grow, you should give sore muscles one to two days of rest before exercising them hard again. So, if your legs and glutes are really sore from your exercise routine, you need to take some time off and let them rest before doing another workout, involving those muscles.
Movement is good for a recovering body, it encourages more blood flow, helps pushes out lactic acid, keeps joints nicely lubricated (ew...) and it helps prevent muscle stiffness and cramps. However! This 'movement' should be kept to cardio like jogging, walking, swimming and mobility or stretching, basically nothing too strenuous.
If you are seriously sore, this is where rest comes in. You absolutely must rest the muscles you worked for one to two days after a workout. Take at least one day off between strength training sessions, and if you are still very sore, take two days off. If you don't let your muscles recover and repair, they will continue to break down and you will actually get weaker.
I rest isn't an option, you can try alternate workouts. Being too sore to work out may be a popular excuse, but it's not always a good one to overuse. If you're nursing sore legs, spend the next day working on your abs or arms. Allowing an overworked part of your body time to rest while working on another is a great way to optimise your time and ensure that you stay on track.
To help minimise muscle soreness in the future be sure to:
- Warm up for 10 minutes at least pre workout and cool down for 5+mins.
- Stretch warm your muscles are warm not cold. Stretching in hot yoga, after a workout or after a hot bath are great options.
- Stay active. The more your muscles move, the faster they will recover from exercise and soreness. If you choose to rest completely instead of "actively recovering" with light exercise, you'll be sore longer.
Katie Williams is part of the Women's Health Fitfluential Network and her mega passion for life is contagious! Katie’s a champion beach sprinter and Ninja Warrior, and her aim is to "lead and inspire the women of Australia to be best version of themselves".