The Benefits of Cooling Down
Accelerate your recovery with tips from one of Moji’s fitness experts.
Sean Lee, NASM ACE – CPT, NSCA – CSCS
Fitness Expert, Barrington, IL
- A cool down should last 5-10 minutes or longer, and allowing for the gradual return of heart rate, respiratory rate, and core body temperature back to pre-exercise levels.
- A cool-down is an essential recovery tool for transitioning the body from activity to a state of rest.
- A well-organized cool-down may accelerate the recovery process by decreasing the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and post-exercise stiffness, allowing for a more efficient exercise adaptation.
- A cool-down should include flexibility and mobility exercise techniques focused on improving muscle/soft tissue elasticity, and joint mobility of all major muscles and body segments utilized during the exercise session.
The practice of cooling down after exercise promotes recovery and allows for a smooth transition between physical activity and a state of rest. Just as a warm-up prepares your body for exercise, a cool-down provides an effective means for initiating the recovery process. During a bout of strenuous exercise your body goes through many stressful processes resulting in muscle and soft tissue microtrauma. A cool-down is the first step in the recovery and repair cycle. Unfortunately, many exercisers pressed to fit a workout into their busy schedules fail to recognize the benefits a cool down provides. Educating yourself about the cool-down process and the role it plays in the overall recovery scheme will enhance your exercise experience and leave you feeling rejuvenated after each and every workout.
Cooling down after exercise can prevent dizziness and allow for a seamless transition to a resting state. When exercising, your muscles serve as a secondary pump assisting the heart in circulating blood to all the working areas of the body. If you go from a period of intense activity to rest, the muscles stop pumping blood and the heart must compensate and pick up the extra workload. If the heart is not capable of this, you may experience a period of dizziness or possibly even pass out. Below is a list of additional benefits a cool-down offers: Allows for a safe and gradual return of heart rate, respiration rate, and core body temperature back to pre-exercise levels.
- Allows for the safe and gradual return of heart rate, respiration rate, and core body temperature back to pre-exercise levels.
- Reduces the risk of post-exercise cramping or spasm.
- Aids in the prevention of blood pooling, dizziness, and fainting.
- Assists in the removal of waste products such as lactic acid, which can accumulate during vigorous exercise and delay recovery time.
- Assists in the decrease of post-exercise stiffness and muscle soreness.
- May enhance flexibility and facilitate an improvement in the length-tension relationships between muscles.
- May decrease the risk of injury.
- Begins the recovery process, preparing the body for the next workout.
COOL-DOWN – DELAYED ONSET MUSCLE SORENESS – EXERCISE ADAPTATION?
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the pain, muscle stiffness and/or swelling felt 24-72 hours after a bout of strenuous exercise and typically lasting 2-3 days. Although the precise cause is still unknown, it is believed that DOMS is the result of lactic acid accumulation as well as exercise or activity that produces repetitive eccentric muscle contractions, such as downhill running or resistance training. Eccentric contractions occur when an external force is applied which causes a muscle to lengthen. When stress is placed on the muscle beyond what that to which it is accustomed, small microscopic tearing and inflammation occur. It is believed that this tearing and the subsequent inflammatory response results in pain. Mild soreness can be expected and is an indication that your muscles are adapting to the exercise stimulus. An organized and well designed cool-down may reduce the effects of DOMS and is the first step in accelerating the recovery process. Returning to exercise while in the DOMS state would be uncomfortable, delay exercise adaptation, and may result in overtraining or injury.
THE COOL-DOWN EXPERIENCE
A cool-down should be enjoyable and leave you feeling refreshed. A period of light activity for 5-10 minutes after exercise, including a series of flexibility and mobility exercises, will facilitate this process. The cool- down period is the best time to perform static stretching, soft tissue techniques, and gentle mobility exercise. Focus on the major muscles and body segments utilized during the exercise session. Below are some definitions and techniques to assist you in your selection.
Many people use the term “passive stretching” and “static stretching” interchangeably. However, there are a number of experts who make a distinction between the two.
Involves holding a specific joint position which lengthens its associated muscle(s) for 10-30 seconds.
Is a technique during which you are relaxed and make no contribution to the range of motion. Instead, an external force is created by an outside agent, either manually or mechanically.
Self-Myofascial Release (SMR)
SMR on a foam roller offers an effective, inexpensive, and convenient way to reduce both soft tissue adhesion and scar tissue accumulation. Note that, as with stretching, foam rolling doesn’t yield measurable improvements overnight; you will need to be diligent and stick with it (although you will definitely notice acute benefits).
*Those with circulatory problems and chronic pain diseases (Fibromyalgia) should avoid using foam rollers.
Mobility Exercise Techniques
Acts as a foundational method for restoring joint motion. Provides enhanced nutrient flow and improves joint lubrication.
Exercise is beneficial for all who participate, however, maximizing the results of your routine require a planned and carefully thought out post-exercise cool-down and recovery strategy. When cooling-down, take into consideration the frequency, intensity, time, and type (FITT Principles) of exercise activity you are participating in. These factors will influence the amount of time required for recovery. More intense activities and those lasting one hour or longer demand extended cool-down and recovery periods. Taking a few extra minutes at the end of an exercise session to cool-down properly will accelerate the recovery process, decrease the risk of injury, enhance performance, and ensure long term health and fitness success.
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