Whenever you workout or participate in intense physical activity, you want to make sure you reduce your chances of injury and recover as quickly as possible. That’s why cooling down after exercise is a highly important habit to get into, but one that many people overlook. In order to understand the importance of cooling down, it’s necessary to know what health benefits are involved and how it can help your body better recover post-workout.
The Basics of A Proper Cool Down
Following physical activity, it’s best to not just plop down on the ground, even if you’re feeling exhausted. Fitness experts recommend a “cool down”, which involves light physical activity, typically over the period of 5 to 10 minutes. This might involve a light walk after a street workout session, a marathon or calisthenics. You can also participate in some light static stretching as well, which will help you relax and increase your flexibility.
How Cooling Down Helps Your Heart Rate
Perhaps one of the most important ways cooling down helps you is by gradually reducing your heart rate. Of course, it’s great to get the heart pumping during a street workout, but you also want to reduce unnecessary strain on your heart. A cool down can help you properly bring your high heart rate and your core body temperature down to baseline.
Reduce Dizziness and Fainting
Due to heightened circulation from physical activity, blood is circulating at a faster rate through your dilated blood vessels, and may pool in the lower extremities. When you suddenly stop after an intense street workout, blood tends to rush into your muscles to compensate for the strain you placed on them.
Unfortunately, stopping abruptly after calisthenics can cause dizziness in people and sometimes even fainting. A cool down helps the body slowly adjust circulation to more normal levels, which helps reduce feelings of dizziness. For those prone to fainting, cooling down is a must. That’s why the American Heart Association indicates that cooling down is just as important as warming up.
Studies have also demonstrated that cooling down helps reduce injuries, including one involving aerobic dance instructors who suffered less injuries when they incorporated a warming up and cooling down into their physical activity.
Cooling Down Conditions Muscles
Both anabolic and aerobic exercises leads to an increase in lactic acid in the body. Cooling down helps clear this lactic acid after vigorous activity. Lactic acid is a major contributor to the soreness many feel after an intense street workout, which is why you want to clear this toxin from your body as quickly as possible.
In addition to your cool down, you’ll want to ensure you’re also drinking plenty of water, which will help your body better flush out toxins like lactic acid. You should also ingest a nutritionally balanced meal with plenty of proteins and carbohydrates, which will help restore your energy reserves.
At the same time, cooling down helps the body return muscles to their ideal length-tension relationship. This ensures muscles get started quickly with any necessary repair work after an intense street workout program.
Ultimately, cooling down is an essential aspect any general post-workout fitness plan. Along with a warm-up, you should always ensure you cool down after each bout of physical activity.