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Why should I cool-down after exercise?

Bernard J. Staller, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Always cool down after exercise. A cool-down allows blood to keep moving rather than becoming trapped in the muscles. Skipping the cool-down could result in dizziness, faintness, irregular heartbeats, or nausea.

A cool-down helps slow your heart rate down and helps muscles and joints return to an inactive state. You reduce your chances of injury and sore muscles if your brisk walks and other aerobic activities include the warm-up and stretch before you start and cool-down and stretch after you finish. You can slow down your aerobic activity or walk slowly for 5–10 minutes after aerobic activity to cool down. The cool-down should end with stretching. Again the stretching includes neck rotations, shoulder rolls, arm swings, gentle knee bends, and ankle rotations. Your stretches should be smooth, fluid movements. As you do in yoga, you can hold a stretch, but do not make jerky, sudden movements or bounces. After the cool-down and stretching, your body should feel relaxed and more flexible. Your heart rate should have returned to its normal pre-exercise rate by the end of the cool-down and stretch.

A cool-down provides the body with a smooth transition from exercise back to a steady state of rest.  An effective way to cool-down after exercise is to perform 5-10 minutes of low-intensity activity such as cardio or flexibility exercises such as foam rolling and/or static stretching.  Low intensity cardio will help to bring down the body's heart rate to a more rested level after the workout. Foam rolling (a self-massage technique for alleviating knots in your muscles) and static stretching can be beneficial as well because it will help to reduce some of the tension that was created in the muscles during the workout as well as help to prevent any muscle imbalances from developing.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.