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What is the importance of a cool down?

A proper cool down is probably the most overlooked part of the exercise process, which is unfortunate... The cool down serves some very important functions and neglecting to do so, can sometimes lead to dire circumstances. In terms of aerobic exercise, the cool down phase serves to slowly transition your heart-rate back to your normal resting rate, as well as assist in flushing out metabolic waste products such as lactic acid from the working muscles.

The reason that this is so important is that while you are exercising, your heart is working hard to get oxygenated blood and nutrients to the working muscles; Your heart is also relying on the muscular contractions of the activity, as well as it's own beating process in order to get that deoxygenated blood back up to the lungs and reoxygenated, so it can get back to the heart, brain and the rest of the body, repeating the cycle...When you fail to cool down after a brisk cardiovascular activity such as running, stairstepping, etc. and just transition to a resting phase such as standing or worse yet, sitting down, there is a danger of insufficient venous return to the heart...Your heart is still beating fast and sending blood down to the legs, but since you have stopped, blood is not returning to the heart fast enough... This is a process called "blood pooling" which can quickly lead to dizziness, passing out and can be associated with negative cardiac events, including  heart attack or stroke. However, this need not happen if you just take a few minutes to continue the activity you are engaged in, and just slowly regulate your breathing while decreasing your intensity level over several minutes, until your heart rate drops down into a "safe" zone.  If you cannot continue performing the exercise, you can walk around briskly, or move onto an easier aerobic exercise that you can keep doing while repeating the above steps until the heart-rate decreases.

A generally accepted heart rate to slowly transition yourself down to is at least 110 beats per minute or under. Your cool down time typically improves over time as your cardiovascular system adapts to the exercise bouts. Generally, the more aerobicly fit your heart is, the quicker its adjustment to variable intensities of exercise... Regardless of time, taking whatever of it you need in order to safely cool down is a very smart and easy thing to do!

The cool down is used to gradually decrease the intensity of activity back to a steady state. A gradual decrease helps to remove waste products from the muscles, minimizing muscle soreness. It also helps the cardiovascular system transition slowly to help avoid feelings of dizziness.

The cool down is an excellent time to perform some flexibility exercises, while the body and muscles are still warm.

The cool down should last for approximately 5-10 minutes, and should be used for both cardiovascular and resistance training programs, and include a flexibility component.

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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.