Do you really need to take the extra time to cool down after you exercise? What happens when you don’t? Experts say it’s a definite yes – and if you’re going to engage in intense exercise, it may even be essential. Here’s why you should always cool down after a workout, even if you don’t think it’s always necessary.
WHY COOLING DOWN AFTER A WORKOUT MATTERS
There’s really only one major risk to skipping a cool down after exercise, and that’s dizziness and/or fainting. Going from intense exercise straight into little to no movement at all doesn’t give your heart enough time to get enough blood back into your head. More blood gets pumped closer to your muscles as you’re working out, which is also why your heart rate increases. You need to give your body time to adjust to the change in activity – anywhere from two to five minutes is really all you need, but don’t skip out – especially after more intense workouts.
MUSCLES AND STRETCHING
The reason stretching is so important after exercise is because your muscles are warm from recent use. Stretching as part of your post-workout cool down can increase your flexibility, but it also gives your heart time to slow down while you’re still technically working different muscle groups.
THE MUSCLE SORENESS MYTH
Cooling down has nothing to do with muscle soreness or the buildup of lactic acid. Preventing sore muscles has more to do with stretching and what you eat after you work out. Cooling down is still important, but not for this reason.
There’s also a bit of a mental benefit to cooling down. You have a few minutes to reflect on whatever you want, workout-wise or something completely unrelated. Instead of going straight from one thing to the next, just take some time to breathe. If after a few minutes you can still feel your heart racing, walk around a little bit. Slow down. Stretch. If you ever feel lightheaded after exercising, you might not be cooling down enough – and you really should be.