America's Energy Doctor
It’s pretty well known that it’s important to warm up before a workout. But a lot of people aren’t aware of just how important it is to undergo a cooling down after exercising. Basically, a cool-down is just a short period of low-intensity exercise and movement.
Physiologically, the purpose of a cool-down is to gradually reduce your accelerated breathing and heart rate and your elevated body temperature. This helps you avoid the dizziness and even fainting that can occur after abruptly stopping strenuous exercise, which sometimes causes blood pooling in the legs and a rapid drop in blood pressure. It also eases your muscles into relaxing, which helps prevent muscle spasms, cramping, stiffness, and soreness. Plus, it helps your body dispense with lactic acid and other waste buildup that can result from vigorous physical activity.
Use these tips for cooling down after exercising following any aerobic or strength-building workout. After performing a cool-down several times, it will become an automatic part of your fitness routine.
Doing a Post-Exercise Cool-Down
- Spend at least 5 and up to about 15 minutes cooling down, depending on how long and strenuously you’ve been exercising
- If you’re in a rush after your workout and can’t spare another 15 minutes, remember that a little cooling down is better than none, so even do it for just a minute or two
- As you end a cardio workout, simply reduce your pace gradually; for example, if you’re running, smoothly decelerate into a jog, then a brisk walk, then a regular walk, and end with a slow walk; or, if you’re bicycling, gradually reduce your speed to end with a few minutes of slow pedaling
- Walking or other slow, low-intensity aerobic exercise works for cooling down after exercising if you’ve been lifting weights, doing resistance training, or performing other strength-building techniques too
- Many treadmills, stationary exercise bikes, stair steppers, ellipticals, cross-trainers, rowing machines, and other types of aerobic exercise equipment have a cool-down mode you can use to wind down your workout
- Focus on controlled breathing, inhaling deeply through your nose and exhaling out your mouth
- Finish up any post-workout cool-down with about 3 to 5 minutes of proper stretching
- Make sure to stretch any and all muscles you concentrated on during this fitness routine
- Try some self-myofascial release techniques with a foam roller or tennis balls
- Remember to replenish those lost fluids and electrolytes!