ACE®-Sponsored Studies Find That How You Recover From an Exercise Bout Determines How You Perform in the Next One

Posted: Feb 27, 2018 in ACE Press Releases

American Council on Exercise commissions research on the effects of passive and active recovery on endurance and power

San Diego, February 27, 2018—Recovery is an essential part of any exercise program. In fact, incorporating the proper recovery strategy into a workout can yield better overall performance and improvement over time—but what is the best way to recover? American Council on Exercise (ACE), the leading certifier of health coaches and exercise professionals, sponsored three scientific studies aimed at identifying the best recovery strategy for optimizing the endurance and power benefits of exercise programs.

 "These studies investigate the difference between passive recovery, simply resting in between exercises, and active recovery, continuing to move immediately after an exercise session is completed but at a lower intensity," says ACE Chief Science Officer Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D. "The research team from Western State Colorado University, led by Lance Dalleck, Ph.D., also tested the impact of active recovery at different intensities."

Recovery Methods for Endurance and Power

The first study investigated the difference between passive and active recovery methods on endurance. Fifteen participants performed two exercise trials separated by 48 hours or more. Participants ran on a treadmill at 70 percent of their second ventilatory threshold (the point when someone starts breathing heavily) for as long as they could, recovered for one hour, then repeated the exercise.

In one trial, participants used an active recovery strategy between exercise bouts—15 minutes of slow jogging followed by 45 minutes of rest. In the other trial, participants used a passive recovery strategy and rested for 60 minutes.

In a second study comparing the difference between passive and active recovery methods on power, participants performed the same exercise trials but on a stationary bicycle with high resistance.

In terms of both endurance and power, an active recovery strategy proved to be significantly more effective than passive recovery. After active recovery, endurance performance decreased by 4.1 percent and power performance decreased by only 0.8 percent. With passive recovery, endurance performance dropped by 11.8 percent and power performance dropped by 5.7 percent.

"The idea that using more energy after an exercise leads to better performance in the next exercise seems counterintuitive. However, when done properly, active recovery can be two or three times more effective than simply resting," says Bryant.

What’s The Best Intensity for Active Recovery?

In the third study, researchers tested what intensities of active recovery best preserve performance during subsequent bouts of exercise. Researchers had participants perform three exercise routines separated by at least 48 hours. The routines involved running on a treadmill at increasingly faster speeds until participants could no longer keep up, recovering for an hour, then running for as long as they could at a speed five percent faster than the speed at which they previously failed.

During their hour of recovery, participants spent twenty minutes running at either 80, 90 or 100 percent of their VT2 or the top speed at which they could jog comfortably for an extended period of time. Which worked best? Participants performed significantly better after active recovery at 80 and 90 percent of their top speed than they did after active recovery at 100 percent of their top speed.

"Active recovery appears to have a threshold for intensity that should not be exceeded. An effective active recovery bout is not intended to be a mini-workout. If active recovery is performed at too high of an intensity, it is less effective," says Bryant. "Overall, it's important to remember to keep moving immediately after a bout of intense exercise, but at a lower intensity. Active recovery should feel relatively comfortable and far less challenging than the exercise training bout."

To view the complete details of these studies, please click here. To learn more about American Council on Exercise and its mission to get all people moving, please visit

About ACE

With a mission to get people moving, the nonprofit organization American Council on Exercise (ACE) educates, certifies and represents more than 70,000 currently certified fitness professionals, health coaches and other allied health professionals. ACE advocates for a new intersection of fitness and healthcare, bringing the highly qualified professionals ACE represents into the healthcare continuum so they can contribute to the national solution to physical inactivity and obesity. ACE is the leading certifier in its space and all four of its primary certification programs are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the gold standard in the United States for accreditation of certifications that assess professional competence. ACE also plays an important public-service role, conducting and providing science-based research and resources on safe and effective physical activity and sustainable behavior change. For more information, call 800-825-3636 or visit AMERICAN COUNCIL ON EXERCISE, ACE and ACE logos are Registered Trademarks of the American Council on Exercise.

More ACE Press Releases