Exercise: The benefits of cooling down after exercise
Picture this: You've just finished a game or rigorous training - over an hour of activity that included a warm-up.
Your heart rate is above 80% of its maximum; your body is heated and sore.
When you're finished, you just want to plop yourself down somewhere and recover, right? Or perhaps just get to the shower and consider your day done.
But wait! You forgot one of the most important aspects of a robust exercise routine – a cool down.
Cool downs are post-exercise routines of low intensity and stretching that are used to return the body to its resting state gradually. It is often overlooked because of fatigue or time considerations.
However, it is just as important in a robust exercise routine. The primary aims of a cool-down are to prevent injury and give the body ample opportunity to recover properly.
Cool down for runners
Cool downs also serve to maximize the benefits derived from exercise, apart from their primary function of returning the body to equilibrium.
Indeed, exercising without a cool-down routine is like braking suddenly in your car instead of slowing down gradually.
Braking suddenly is bad for fuel efficiency and also puts stress on the vehicle and tyres.
Likewise, stopping strenous exercise without a transitionary period is going to put stress on your body and its systems.
Exercise can be high-intensity, moderate-intensity or low-intensity. Intensity is determined by your heart rate (as a percentage of the maximum heart rate per minute). An integral part of the post-workout process is to take the body from high or medium intensity to low intensity and then to the period of stretching.
Benefits of cooling down
The cool down is not only there to prevent or mitigate negative consequences like injury or muscle soreness, but yield positive consequences like retaining muscle flexibility and facilitating tissue growth.
Prevents or mitigates negative consequences
- Decreases the severity of muscle pain or soreness
- Relieves muscle tension after exercise
- Removes waste build-up and toxins created during the workout phase.
- Aids in preventing fainting or dizziness, which is caused by sudden decreases in blood pressure
Facilitates positive exercise results
- Facilitates growth of muscle tissue
- Preserves muscle flexibility
- Facilitates the body’s transition to its normal state
To recap, the cool down is designed to return your body to its resting state by getting the heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature back to normal. It is all too easy to neglect the cool-down process for different reasons. However, in any workout regime or exercise plan, time should be allocated for this and it must be completed.