Don't Forget To Skip This Activity After Exercise

There are a lot of things you're supposed to be doing after an intense exercise session. You should spend some time stretching and cooling down, and you should also focus on what to eat after a workout and when. Most fitness experts would tell you that your body needs to refuel if it's to recover well. In addition to proper hydration, you should think of having carbohydrate and protein-rich foods, preferably within 30-45 mins after your workout. 

Of course, on the other side of the spectrum, there's a list of the worst things you could do after a workout. We're talking about consuming alcohol, not sleeping enough, and more immediately, skipping the shower. And as it turns out, there's yet another everyday activity you should avoid doing after a particularly grueling day at the gym — intense household chores.  

Engaging in chores that require more than your average manual labor — like carrying lots of heavy boxes down to the basement, chopping wood, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, or doing a deep-cleaning of your apartment — are best reserved for times when you haven't just finished a demanding workout. And here's why. 

Heavy chores after exercise: Why are they bad for you?

When you start exercising, your muscles, brain, and nervous system all work together to facilitate your workout. With exercises like weight lifting, for example, you're actually creating microtears in your muscles, as certified personal trainer Kathy DeBlasio explained to UNC Health Talk. The healing of these tears is what builds muscle strength and gain. "That's why it's important to do strength training every other day instead of every day," DeBlasio elaborated. "That gives your muscles time to recover and get stronger."

By engaging in chores that require your muscles to be challenged beyond your time of exercise, you're essentially overexerting them. This can add to already existent muscle fatigue, and it can even lead to injury. It's kind of similar to overtraining and its consequences. 

Plus, your nervous system, joints, muscles, heart, lungs, and other parts of your body are all exerted during a workout. They all work systematically. When your entire body is tired after an intense workout session, the last thing you should be doing is putting it through more severe activity. But does this mean you shouldn't do anything around the house when you get back home from the gym? Not really. 

The case for light activity after a workout

There is a case for doing light chores or engaging in light activity after exercising. It has to do with the benefit of keeping your body — and therefore blood circulation — moving after a particularly demanding exercise session. This is known as active recovery. 

According to a 2018 systematic review with meta-analysis published in Frontiers in Physiology, engaging in active recovery, along with things like massages after working out, can decrease delayed onset muscle soreness, commonly referred to as DOMS in the fitness world. Overtraining your muscles, on the other hand, can prolong soreness. Active recovery has also been linked to keeping you on track with your fitness goals and helping keep your muscles flexible. 

The key here is to do activities at your own pace while keeping your body moving in some form or another. There are plenty of things you can do during active recovery, such as a light jog, walking, swimming, or yoga. For others, active recovery could mean turning daily chores into a form of light movement, like taking your dog for a short walk, folding laundry, or doing the dishes. Speaking of chores and exercise, did you know that there are easy ways to turn your daily errands into exercise? This one is for those of us who just can't seem to find the time to get a gym session in.