Why One of the Best Things You Can Do for Sore Legs Is Go for a Walk

Photo: Getty Images/ Westend61
If your legs are really sore, you'd think that the smartest thing to do would be to sit down and take a load off so that they can have time to heal. While that certainly feels great every now and then, trainers actually recommend that you get up and move around by walking to relieve muscle soreness. No kidding.

Though having sore legs after a killer lower-body workout can mean that it's harder to move, putting one foot in front of the other will help get rid of that heavy feeling.

Ahead, we dive into why walking with sore legs can actually help with muscle recovery.

Experts In This Article
  • Branko Teodorovic, master trainer and three time World Fitness Federation Pro World Champion

Let's back up: What causes sore legs in the first place?

Like we mentioned above, doing a strength workout heavily involving your lower body can cause sore legs. More specifically, you either started a brand new workout routine that your muscles aren't used to or you ramped up your workout intensity or increased your weights.

Regardless, putting excessive load on your muscles leads to microtears, according to Houston Methodist Hospital. While that term might sound a little scary, it's actually totally normal. These microtears are what leads to muscle growth—but also soreness. That's because they're a “byproduct of the muscle healing process,” per Houston Methodist, also known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). (And having this late muscle soreness is super common!)

Common symptoms of DOMS

Muscle soreness in the affected body part (in this case, your legs) is definitely the most common characteristic of DOMS, but there are a few more to be aware of, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM):

  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness

DOMS will typically go away on its own with rest and recovery, per the ACSM, but if you notice severe pain or intense swelling in the area or if your urine becomes dark, make an appointment with your doc immediately.

Leg Injury vs. Leg Soreness

If you notice a loss of muscle strength or function, heavy swelling or bruising, have trouble walking, or heard any noises like a pop during your workout, you may actually have a muscle strain, per Harvard Health—not DOMS. In this case, medical attention is necessary.

Benefits of walking with sore legs

So, is it okay to walk when my legs are sore?

"Walking is very important immediately after leg training and during recovery days," says Branko Teodorovic, a master trainer and three time World Fitness Federation Pro World Champion. "It might seem uncomfortable to start walking, but as we warm up, there is more blood being circulated into the legs, and after 10 to 15 minutes it'll feel much more pleasant."

Basically, the movement shakes your legs out and helps relieve the tightness that just accumulated from your workout, and it has a host of other benefits.

"Walking gets more oxygen transported into your legs versus than when you're lying down or sitting," Teodorovic says. "It transports all the nutrients necessary to 'feed' the muscles in your legs and to replenish glycogen, our muscle energy. Plus, walking breaks up lactic acid buildup so that your muscles are more prepped for your next training session."

This all sounds great, but can walking exacerbate leg muscle soreness? Don't worry: To reap these benefits, it's not like you have to go all-out with a hardcore power-walking sesh.

If you're wondering what is the best way to walk with sore legs, Teodorovic has a recommendation. 

"Walk at a light pace and don't worry about your heart rate—this is a recovery walk," he says.

He adds that all you really need is about 20 to 30 minutes on a rest day. In essence, this follows the "Blue Zones" fitness philosophy of fitting in movement organically into your day, which gives you many more benefits than simply hitting your 10,000 steps. So get movin' for the sake of your sore gams and your overall wellness game.

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