CFC Blog - The Importance of a Cool-Down After Exercise

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After the completion of a workout, many people are tempted to skip the cool-down. However, the cool-down is just as important as the warm-up, and, the workout itself. It provides your body with a smooth transition from a strenuous state during exercise, back to a steady state of daily living activities or rest. So why is cool-down so important?

Prevent Blood Pooling

During exercise, the heart pumps faster to send the oxygenated blood around the body, to the lower extremities, and back to the heart and lungs for re-oxygenation. When you suddenly stop exercising without taking time to cool down, your heart rate abruptly slows down, lowering the return rate of the blood back to the heart and the brain. This can cause blood to pool in your lower body, leading to lightheadedness, dizziness, and even fainting. A proper cool down gently slows the heart rate to a near resting state, and allows your body to adjust to a lower level of intensity.

Stress relief

A proper cool-down will help your body transition from strenuous activity by bringing your heart rate, breathing rate, body temperature, and blood pressure back down to your normal levels before continuing with regular day activities. Exercise is a great way to step away from everyday life stressors. Slowly bringing your body back to a near resting state during the cool-down gives you time to relax the tensions held in the body, clear your mind, and reflect; leaving you with a refreshed feeling before entering back into your busy life.

Injury Prevention

After completing a workout, your muscles are very warm. Cool-down is the time to perform static stretching while your muscles are very pliable. Muscles stretched on a consistent basis will become lengthened over time, improving flexibility. Range of motion increases with flexibility, decreasing the risk of injury due to tight muscles. Stretch every major muscle group, holding each stretch a minimum of 10 to 30 seconds. Breathe consistently while stretching, using each exhale as an opportunity to relax into the stretch. Only stretch to the point of tension, never to the point of pain.

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The goal during the cool-down is to gradually decrease the intensity level of the workout. This can be done by performing exercises or movements at a slower speed, reducing your pace every minute or two. This pace tapering should last for 3-5 minutes (or more, if the workout was especially strenuous). After your heart and breathing rate has slowed, stretch for a minimum of 5 minutes. A full body stretch should include the major muscle groups of the body: neck, shoulders, arms, chest, front of the torso (abdominals, obliques and hip flexors), back (upper, mid, and lower), glutes, legs, and ankles. Consider spending extra time stretching the muscles and joints used during the workout.

Sources:

Crockford, Jacqueline, MS,CSCS; Five Reasons You Shouldn’t Skip Your Cool-down After Exercise; www.acefitness.org/education; January 2014.

Fisher, Kristen; Why Does the Body Have to Cool Down After Exercise?; www.livestrong,com; 2020.

Frey, Malia; The Benefits of a Cool Down After Exercise; www.verywellfit.com; 2020.

Written by: Kimberley Alger-Norton, CFC Certified Personal Trainer