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The importance of a proper cool-down

Jul. 18, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Cooling down and stretching after a workout won't guarantee less post-exercise muscle soreness, but it will reduce the risk of injury and help to re-stabilize the body temperature and heart rate. Here, the experts at Life Fitness explain the benefits of a proper cool-down.

The purpose of the cool-down is to slowly decrease the heart rate previously elevated during exercise, so start yours with a low-intensity exercise. It's best to slow your intensity levels gradually as ending your activity abruptly lowers your blood pressure at a quick rate, which could cause dizziness or fainting. Once the heart rate has returned to normal, it's time to stretch.

A proper cool-down offers a number of benefits, including:

Returning your heart beat and breathing to a normal rate

Helping to avoid fainting or dizziness, which can result when vigorous activity is stopped suddenly

Reducing the immediate post-exercise tendency for muscle spasms, cramping and stiffness

Keeping your flexibility and range of motion intact

A cool-down should be performed after any workout. Stretching during your cool-down will help relax and lengthen your muscles, and will improve flexibility. Try holding your initial stretches for 20 to 40 seconds each. A 10- to 15-minute cool-down period allows your heart rate and breathing to return to normal. After exercise or strenuous physical activity, it is important to decrease your body temperature gradually by slowing down activity for three to five minutes and stretching for five to 10 minutes.