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Q:

 What causes our muscles to ache after exercise?

A: “We now think muscle aches may be the result of muscle tears on a microscopic level,” says Linda Grant, MD, director of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Greenwich Hospital. “When you exercise, on a micro scale, you ‘damage’ your muscle fibers. This damage causes the muscles to become inflamed, which causes an increase of blood to the injured muscle fiber, which promotes the muscle to repair and become stronger. Muscle soreness is actually a stepping stone to building muscle strength. This is why the whole idea in training is not to engage in the same activity consecutively and instead back off until the soreness is gone, because you want to give the muscle time to heal and grow stronger. That’s why a lot of athletes alternate the muscle groups they work on.”

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