Whenever I go out for a run or have a chance to hit the gym, I notice plenty of people warming up and working out but I rarely, if ever, catch people in the midst of their cool down routine.
I know plenty of people can rattle off the benefits of a good warm up (prevent injury, encourage extra caloric burn, etc), but I can’t say the same about our knowledge of the equally important post-workout cool down session. So here’s a quick rundown of why you need to do cool down exercises:
1. Avoids light-headedness
If you’re doing cardio, your objective is to get your heart to work in a target heart rate zone. This means your muscles will be working really hard, causing lactic acid to build up in them. Cool downs are effective at lowering body temperature and regulating heart rate, two key things in helping your body redistribute lactic acid away from your muscles. If you don’t cool down, then blood could pool at your legs, causing you to feel light-headed and giving you a dizzy sensation. Cool downs actually keep you functional after your workout, so you can go on and lead that active day you planned out!
2. Decrease next-day soreness
Cool downs can and will reduce the amount of pain you experience the day after your workout. Stretching during your cool down is effective because your post-workout muscles are way more flexible, allowing you to stretch further to release workout tension. Stretching decreases next-day soreness and stiffness because it encourages blood flow to muscle groups that you targeted, allowing for nutrients to reach those fatigued muscles to encourage recovery. This is especially helpful during weight loss because the less pain you feel, the more likely you are to work out the next day.
Remember: Try to stretch out each muscle group for at least 60 seconds in total for maximum effect. You can break it up into reps of 4 X 15 seconds if you want.
3. Prepares you for the next workout
Besides decreasing muscle soreness, cool down cardio, where you do an easy slow jog after intense workouts, brings your heart rate down. It signals your body, telling it that intense exercise has come to an end. This is important because your body needs to be at as restful a state as possible for you to recover well before your next workout.
Cool down stretches are great for extending and increasing flexibility in the long term. You may not be supremely flexible after your first few cool down stretch sessions, but do it enough times, and you’ll realise that your range of movement in subsequent workouts will be wider!