why should you cool down after a workout

Most fitness fanatics believe that cooling down after exercise is just as important as the workout itself. While a proper cool down can benefit your body, these benefits are often misunderstood among casual exercisers and fitness professionals alike. Learning about the exact science behind the cool down will help you understand just what those extra minutes of exercise can and cannot do for your body. One of the most important functions of the post-exercise cool down is to prevent dizziness. Strenuous exercise causes the blood vessels in your legs to expand, bringing more blood into the legs and feet. When you stop exercising suddenly without taking time to cool down, your heart rate slows abruptly and that blood can pool in your lower body, causing dizziness and even fainting. The risk is greater for serious athletes, whose heart rates slow down faster and whose veins can hold more blood; for casual exercisers, something as simple as walking from the treadmill to the locker room may be enough to prevent dizziness. The idea that cooling down can help prevent muscle soreness and injury is popular among exercisers, but it's not actually backed up by fact. It was once believed that muscle soreness resulted from the build up of lactic acid, which could be dissipated with a cool down. However, this theory has been disproved, and there exists no other research to suggest that cooling down can prevent sore muscles.


While not all exercisers need to do a proper cool down, everyone should be in the habit of stretching after each exercise session. Stretching when your muscles are warm, as they are after a workout, can improve your flexibility over time, which in turn helps prevent injury. Stretch every major muscle group after a workout, holding each stretch for 10 to 20 seconds and breathing throughout. Stretching shouldn't be painful, but you should feel tension in the muscle being stretched. Your goal during a cool down is to gradually bring your heart rate back down to its resting level. When your workout ends, keep up your activity but move at a slower pace; keep reducing your pace every minute or two. Your cool down should last for at least five minutes, but you may need to keep moving longer if your heart rate is still elevated. Once you've cooled down, gently stretch every muscle.
Stretching also makes many people feel better during and after exercise and in some people decreases muscle pain and stiffness. When done properly, stretching activities increase flexibility. So what s the big deal? A good warm-up before a workout dilates your blood vessels, ensuring that your muscles are well supplied with oxygen. It also raises your muscles temperature for optimal flexibility and efficiency. By slowly raising your heart rate, the warm-up also helps minimize stress on your heart.


Warming up before any workout or sport is critical for preventing injury and prepping your body, said Johnny Lee, M. D. , director of the Asian Heart Initiative at the New York University Langone Medical Center and president of New York Heart Associates in New York City. Stretching allows for greater range of motion and eases the stress on the joints and tendons, which could potentially prevent injury. Warming up, such as low-heart rate cardio, prepares the circulatory and respiratory system for the upcoming age- and type-appropriate target heart rate exercising, whether it s endurance or sprint type of activities. The cool-down is just as critical. It keeps the blood flowing throughout the body. Stopping suddenly can cause light-headedness because your heart rate and blood pressure drop rapidly. Before you exercise, think about warming up your muscles like you would warm up your car. It increases the temperature and flexibility of your muscles, and helps you be more efficient and safer during your workout. A warm-up before moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity allows a gradual increase in heart rate and breathing at the start of the activity. Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes. The more intense the activity, the longer the warm-up. Do whatever activity you plan on doing (running, walking, cycling, etc. ) at a slower pace (jog, walk slowly).


Use your entire body. For many people, walking on a treadmill and doing some modified bent-knee push-ups will suffice. Cooling down after a workout is as important as warming up. After physical activity, your heart is still beating faster than normal, your body temperature is higher and your blood vessels are dilated. This means if you stop too fast, you could pass out or feel sick. A cool-down after physical activity allows a gradual decrease at the end of the episode. 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. 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. This content was last reviewed on 09/2014. Copyright б 2018 American Heart Association, Healthy For Good, heart. org/healthyforgood

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