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Sore Muscles? Don't Stop Exercising

Delayed onset muscle soreness is common after exercise and usually means your muscles are getting stronger.

Don't Get in a Rut

It's also a process of muscle conditioning. Torgan says delayed onset muscle soreness also has a "repeated bouts" effect.

"If someone does an activity, they will be inoculated for a few weeks to a few months -- the next time they do the activity, there will be less muscle tissue damage, less soreness, and a faster strength recovery."

This is why athletes often cross-train and vary their routines to continue to challenge and develop their muscle strength.

It is important to distinguish the difference between moderate muscle soreness induced by exercise and muscle overuse or injury.

"If soreness prevents you from performing daily activities associated with living and work, then that is too much soreness," Draper says. "It can psychologically deter someone from continuing a workout program."

Both Draper and Torgan stress that soreness is not necessary to see improvements.

"There are all kinds of different little roads that your muscles can take to get stronger," says Torgan. Regardless of whether you're sore, there are still improvements occurring in your muscles during exercise.

However, moderate muscle pain might go a long way to keeping someone on the path to fitness.

"Soreness can serve as encouragement in a workout program because people like immediate results. Muscle doesn't visibly [grow] overnight; nor does your time in the mile drop from eight to six minutes," says Draper. "So something like soreness can give people encouragement that they are in fact working the muscle."

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