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Thursday February 24 2022, 12.01am, The Times

How to reduce muscle soreness after exercise: advice from the experts

Prepare properly for exercise to reduce post-workout muscle soreness

Warm up properly

If you’re getting sore after training, make sure you’ve warmed up properly and that your exercise is appropriate for your fitness level. Especially when weights are involved, there’s a temptation to go too heavy and too fast, and that’s a recipe for very unhappy muscles!

Step one to fix this is to do a general warm-up for at least five to ten minutes to get your heart rate up and ensure your muscles are working. Then perform a targeted warm-up for your planned activity. For arms, try push ups on your knees, arm circles or hanging loosely from a rig.

Step two is to build up your weight or training gradually and be alert to good posture and form. It’s better to move a smaller weight with perfect technique than throw around a larger weight with the risk of injury. Chris Ruxton, personal trainer

Rest, use muscle treatments and vary your exercises

Exercise is essential for keeping our muscles healthy and strong and our skeleton stable and supple. To keep that going, we need to minimise muscle discomfort and stiffness. My tips are to ensure adequate rest, use topical muscle treatments as required and vary exercises to avoid strains.

First, one or two days’ rest a week is essential for muscle growth and repair. Add to that a healthy diet with a good supply of protein from eggs, meat, fish or vegetarian alternatives. Rest doesn’t have to be sitting about, but could involve swimming or yoga, which are beneficial after intense exercise. Structure your weekly training so you’re not exercising the same muscle repeatedly. For example, a weights session for your arms could be done once or twice a week, and ensure that your exercise sessions include opposing movements, such as pushing and pulling. Sammy Margo, physiotherapist

Work on controlling inflammation

Most post-exercise muscle soreness is caused by inflammation generated by microscopic tears in muscle fibres. This is a normal part of gaining strength and fitness, so it’s nothing to worry about. Particular types of training, especially those involving eccentric (lengthening) muscle contractions, can lead to delayed onset muscle soreness (Doms). This phenomenon generally occurs 24-48 hours after exercise and is more likely when you’ve been performing bicep curls with heavy weights or doing a lot of press ups.

Targeting Doms and general post-training soreness is all about controlling inflammation. Deep Relief Anti-inflammatory Gel, for example, combines two painkilling ingredients, ibuprofen and levomenthol. Ibuprofen penetrates the skin to provide effective targeted pain and inflammation relief, helping to reduce swelling. Levomenthol cools and soothes to help to relieve pain in the inflamed area. However, if muscle pain is localised and more intense, with a lot of heat and stiffness in the area, you may have pulled a muscle or injured a tendon. In this case, follow the usual protocol of applying a cold pack, elevating the injury if possible and resting. Dr Nisa Aslam, a GP and adviser to Deep Relief, a topical pain specialist

Eat more fruit and veg and condition your muscles

If you are planning on doing something that is likely to make you sore, increase your intake of fruit and vegetables that are blue and red in colour. Most of these contain polyphenols that are high in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to help to reduce muscle soreness. Many elite athletes use them to support training and competition performance. The one thing you can do that will unequivocally help is doing prior exercise to condition the muscles. Do a high-intensity session, but one that is dramatically shorter than usual. This is called the repeated bout effect — overwhelming evidence shows you need only a single conditioning session to protect you. It won’t completely negate the pain, but it will vastly reduce it.

There is little or no evidence for interventions such as massage (although it may feel nice). Glyn Howatson, a professor in human and applied physiology at Northumbria University


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