When you begin a workout routine, it is important to know the benefits of a cool down after a workout session. Cooling down is an essential component of the fitness routine that must be incorporated, and more often than not, people skip it.
However, before exploring the benefits, let’s quickly understand what the term actually means.
What is ‘cooling down’?
The term was coined to describe the post-workout stretches and movements that brought the heart rate back to normal. Essentially, when we workout, the heart rate increases, which is also the goal of a proper warm-up. Cooling down does the exact opposite, and stabilizes the heart rate.
Here are 7 benefits of a cool down
Now that you have a working idea of what cooling down is, it’s time to know the advantages of the same.
1) Prevents injuries
The way pre-workout stretching helps in preventing injuries, post-workout stretching helps with the same. However, the difference is that a pre-workout stretching prevents injuries such as muscle cramps and muscle pulls, and a post-workout stretching assists in preventing muscle tears.
2) Helps in recovery
When you lift, the muscle undergoes ‘wear and tear’. Following the workout, the body repairs the muscles via a cellular process, and the new muscle fibers have an increased thickness.
A proper post-workout cool down will help with muscle recovery. If you do not cool down your muscles, the recovery process will not kick in until the body realizes you’re done with putting immense pressure on the muscle fibers.
3) Reducing lactic acid
A heavy workout session will lead to lactic acid being formed. If the lactic acid is not reduced, the body will experience soreness and stiffness afterwards. One of the benefits of cooldown is that it spares the body from intense soreness after a session at the gym!
4) Regulates breathing
When you are working out, the pace of your breathing increases. The reason being your body needs more energy and more oxygen. When you cool down, the breathing comes back to normal. It is important to have steady breathing once you finish your workout and bring your heart rate back to normal.
Additionally, a normal breathing pace will aid you in doing other tasks of the day with ease.
5) Improves flexibility and mobility
When you are done working out, the blood flow has already increased. This means when you indulge in post-workout stretching regardless of whether it is dynamic or static, your body will be able to do it with ease.
You will be able to reap the benefits of a cool down with stretches in the longer term as the body’s flexibility improves with time.
6) Controls post-workout blood flow
As mentioned earlier, blood flow increases massively. If you immediately head back home after a workout session, the abrupt halt can drop your blood pressure and it can lead to feeling nauseous, dizzy, and light-headed.
A post-workout cooldown session will help in controlling the blood flow and steadily bringing it down to a normal level.
7) Helps in relaxation
Once you are done with your workout, a post-workout stretch session gives you the time to think about your session. Once you recap the exercises done, the progressive overload for the day and other factors, you can make an informed decision about how to move forward.
This helps in relaxing the mind and assuring yourself that you are making improvements on a daily basis. A relaxed state of mind is one of the most wonderful benefits of a cool down.
Things to keep in mind while stretching
Even if it's something as simple as stretching, you must be aware of some pointers that will enable you to optimize the benefits of a cool down and post-workout stretching.
1) Do not bounce
The idea of stretching is to relax yourself and bring down the heart rate. Therefore, you want to ensure that your heart rate does not move back up during the cool down period.
2) Hold the position
Stretching is different from working out. When training, you do not need to hold the weight in a position for the muscles to feel the pressure. However, with stretching, you need to hold the position for sometime for the muscle to release all the stress and become relaxed. You should aim to hold the position for ten seconds or more.
3) Do not skip the session
You must incorporate stretching into your daily workout sessions, both pre-workout stretching and post-workout stretching. Skipping the sessions will result in losing the benefits of a cool down. Always keep at least ten to fifteen minutes for post-workout stretching.
Here are some post-workout cooldown exercises for your workout routine:
After knowing the benefits of a cool down, you should know the basic exercises to incorporate into your routine for a proper end to your workout sessions.
- Calf and hamstring stretch
- Chest opener stretch/wall stretch
- Foam rolling for the upper back and lower back
- Side lunge stretch
- Butterfly stretch
- Simple yoga poses
Ultimately, when you workout, you ensure physical fitness, and the heart’s health is a huge part of how you feel on a daily basis. Post-workout stretches help in steadily bringing down the heart rate. This ensures that there is no sudden drop in the heart rate and no unwanted stress on the heart.