These days, fitness is truly a lifestyle. There are new fitness trends popping up constantly that provide ample opportunity to switch up our routines with new workouts that are more efficient and advanced than ever. For the past few years, high intensity interval training (HIIT) has been the most聽popular type of workout, and according to the American College of Medical Science鈥檚 recent fitness trend report, it鈥檚 not going anywhere. But a newcomer on the scene that could steal a little of HIIT鈥檚 spotlight? Active recovery.

foam rolling

You might have heard a trainer or group class instructor mention this term before in reference to foam rolling or dynamic stretching before or after class. But now, there are entire classes that focus on just these activities. So why should you go to a workout class where you鈥檙e not really going to be sweating it聽out? Turns out, the work you do during this kind of workout is JUST聽as important as those burpees.

What is Active Recovery?

To understand what active recovery聽does for your body, you have to look at the big picture. Lauren Roxburgh,聽alignment expert and author of the best-selling聽Taller, Slimmer, Younger: 21 Days to a Foam Roller Physique, explains聽that 鈥淩eal health is all about balance, and recovery is the Yin to the Yang that is working out.鈥 In other words, you need both in order to be truly fit. 鈥淥ne of the most essential parts of recovery is what we call active recovery 鈥 basically doing anything that is restorative and healing. That might include a relaxing walk, a slow bike ride, a calming Yin Yoga session, stretching or, of course, foam rolling,鈥 she says.

Rebecca Kennedy, NYC trainer and creator of ACCESS, a class focused on active recovery, defines聽it as a 鈥渓ow intensity workout that involves soft tissue work through foam rolling, trigger point work, stretching (both dynamically and statically), joint stabilization and core activation.鈥 That鈥檚 a lot going on for a class where you鈥檙e not technically 鈥渨orking out.鈥 鈥淭he goal is to learn more about your body, assess any asymmetries and increase range of motion,鈥 she adds.

foam rolling

Why Should You Do It?

Okay, so stretching and massaging your muscle tissue probably sound pretty good, but what are the actual benefits? 鈥淎ctive recovery聽prevents injury and prepares your body to perform optimally,鈥 explains Kennedy. If you incorporate it聽into your routine, you鈥檒l probably notice that you鈥檙e getting faster and stronger at your other workouts. 鈥淚ncluding this in your regular exercise program will also help you improve your posture, become more educated about your body and form, learn how to move in a way that鈥檚 more functionally sound, decrease DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), develop spatial and body awareness聽and potentially avoid an overuse injury,鈥 she continues. Overall it鈥檒l help you perform better not only in your workouts, but also in your daily聽life.

Another reason active recovery is becoming so popular has to do with something in your body called fascia, which Roxburgh says we are just starting to understand the full function of. 鈥淔ascia is a thin layer that lies under the skin and wraps around every muscle and organ,鈥 she says. 鈥淔ascia helps connect the muscles to the bones and joints, so it plays a key role in our structural integrity. In a way it鈥檚 like the scaffolding of the body.鈥 This tissue is found all over your body and is also where your lymph nodes are located. 鈥淲hen fascia becomes tight, thick, dense and plasticized (like a dried-up sponge), movement becomes restricted and the alignment and efficiency of the body can be compromised, causing pain, poor posture and other physical problems,鈥 she notes. 鈥淏ut active recovery techniques like foam rolling are fantastic for rehydrating fascia, breaking up blockages and stimulating the lymphatic system.鈥 The more we learn about the role of fascia聽in our bodies, the more important active recovery seems to become.

woman stretching home

How Often Do You Need It?

Many people think that active recovery is what you should do on your days off from working out, and while that鈥檚 certainly a great time to do it, Roxburgh and Kennedy both suggest doing it a lot more often. 鈥淚 actually think you should find some time to fit in active recovery every day,鈥 says Roxburgh. 鈥淎s strange as it might sound, I recommend doing it before your workout, as it鈥檒l set you up for a more efficient and connected workout. Or aim to spend five to 10 minutes on a foam roller聽before bed to have a deeper and more restorative sleep,鈥 she says.

Kennedy agrees, explaining that stretching once a week for an hour in an active recovery class isn鈥檛 enough, although it鈥檚 a great place to learn how to do it so you can incorporate it into your other workouts. 鈥淐onsider the practice of active recovery聽like a college course,鈥 she says. 鈥淚f you cram for your exam, you鈥檒l forget all the material, but if you study every day, you鈥檒l remember it forever.鈥 She recommends starting by adding 15 minutes of mobility training daily, and if you can do it before and after your workout, even better. 鈥淭ry it for a month and watch your body transform with the right corrective exercises for yourself,鈥 she says.

Women working out in gym

Where Can You Try It?

If you live in NYC or LA, you鈥檙e in luck. Stop by Kennedy鈥檚 class in New York or book a session with Roxburgh in LA. If not, chances are you can find a foam rolling class in your city on ClassPass or by connecting with your local physical therapy centers. Many of these centers use foam rolling as part of their therapy, so they鈥檙e some of the best places to learn how to do it properly. If you want to try this out at home instead, grab a foam roller that鈥檚 on the softer side (the super hard ones are too harsh for beginners!) and check out Roxburgh鈥檚 YouTube channel, where you can learn some basic moves to incorporate into your daily routine. Happy rolling!

Do you already include active recovery into your workouts? If not, would you try it? Tell us what you think聽@BritandCo!聽

(Photos via Getty)