Picture this – you are in your car, travelling down the highway at 60 MPH. You turn off the engine, shut it down, no braking, no slowly coming to a stop. Just stop. That’s silly, right? You would NEVER do that to your car! At least I hope not – it’s too dangerous. So doesn’t it make sense that you wouldn’t do that to your body, your muscles? Our recommendation: always do a cool down stretch at the end of a workout. Always.
We wanted to share with you some of the reasons why cooling down after working out is so important and why you won’t want to miss it after your next workout. Next trip to the gym adjust your time to accommodate at least a 5 minute cool down. Your muscles will thank you. See why it’s worth it…
See Got 5 minutes for a Warm Up Stretch? to understand why it makes sense to warm up before a workout.
The Benefits of Cooling Down
If you typically skip the cool down period after your workout, then you are missing out on some of the benefits. Cooling down gives your body the time to recover and stretching afterwards helps to lengthen and strengthen your muscles. It helps them get back to ‘normal’. Cool down IS your recovery period, allowing your body to recover from your hard workout.
There are different benefits to cooling down after your workout than warming up before you routine, but they are both equally important to your health. And although when pressed for time we often skip these steps, the cool down is probably the most overlooked step in an effective exercise routine.
Why Do You Need to Cool Down?
After physical activity, your heart is still beating faster than normal, your body temperature is higher and your blood vessels are dilated. Because your heart rate and blood pressure are elevated, if you stop exercising suddenly you can feel light-headed or dizziness. During the cool down routine you are allowing your blood to properly redistribute itself to the heart.
So, the main goal of cooling down is to get your breathing, body temperature and heart rate to slowly return to normal. Your cool down allows the redistribution of blood to your heart. This redistribution helps rid the muscles of lactic acid which build up around the muscles during your workout. Dizziness, nausea and feeling worn out are common symptoms of an improper or no cool down period.
It’s good to stretch when you’re cooling down because your limbs, muscles and joints are still warm. Stretching can help reduce the buildup of lactic acid, which can lead to muscles cramping and stiffness.
Muscles to Target
To be sure your muscles are recovered from exercise you’ll want to cool down your major muscles like your chest, shoulders, hips, thighs, glutes and calves. It’s easy – simply do light stretching.
Stretching After Exercise
An effective cool down will also include your stretching exercises. Your muscles will be warm and you’ll get a deeper and more beneficial stretch.
Do static stretching on your major muscles and any muscles you used during your exercise or sport.
Each stretch should be held for 30 seconds.
Remember exercise is the focus of your workout but it doesn’t begin or end with aerobics, strength training or walking/jogging steps. Your workout must begin with a warm up and end with a cool down.
So for your next exercise routine, be sure to get all the benefits of cooling down and warming up by making time for these two critical steps of your workout.
Cooling down should consist of the following:
- 5 to 10 minutes jogging/walking – decrease body temperature
- 5 to 10 minutes static stretching exercises
Static stretches are more appropriate to the cool down as they help muscles to relax, realign muscle fibers and re-establish their normal range of movement. These stretches should be held for about 10 seconds.
Read next weeks blog for more information about static stretching.
- Cool down for 5 to 10 minutes. If your routine includes intense strenuous exercise, increase the time to 15 minutes.
- During the cool down, slowly lower your speed and intensity level by running slower. Continue to cool down by jogging in place, marching in place and eventually walking in place.
- As you slow down, remember to lower your arms as well to help bring your heart rate back to normal. Towards the end of the cool down your arms should not go above your heart. Just swing them slowly by your side.
- Walk for about 5 minutes, or until your heart rate gets below 120 beats per minute.
- Hold each stretch 10 to 30 seconds. If you feel you need more, stretch the other side and return for another set of stretching.
- The stretch should be strong, but not painful.
- Do not bounce.
- Breathe while you’re stretching. Exhale as you stretch, inhale while holding the stretch.
So do your body a favor. Take time to gradually progress into your workout and cool down when you’re done being physically active.
Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to spend time with us. We hope you found this useful and share with your family, friends and co-workers – share the gift of no-pressure, just simple healthy reminders to stay active!
As always, wishing you the best of health!!
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