How important is it to stretch and cool down after exercise?
Stretching and cooling down after your routine can be as important as the workout itself, helping gradually return your heart rate to normal and also helping your muscles to recover. What’s more, cooling down can help prevent dizzy spells.
A strenuous workout causes blood vessels in your legs to expand, bringing more blood into the legs and feet. If you stop suddenly, your heart rate slows suddenly and blood can pool in your lower body, maybe even leading to fainting. For less strenuous exercises, it may only take a swift stroll to warm-down properly. In time, you want to see your heart rate back down to its original, resting level.
So when you’re done, continue the workout at a more relaxed pace every minute, for at least five minutes, depending on your heart rate. When you’ve accomplished that, try gentle stretching.
After a workout, your muscles are warm, so stretching improves flexibility, in turn helping prevent injury. Try stretching every major muscle group after a workout, holding each for up to 20 seconds - breathing throughout to make sure that oxygen is pumping - while ensuring you feel tension in the muscle being stretched. You’ll find that your cool-down will leave you less sore, in turn helping you stay motivated and mentally keeping you on track with your exercise routine.
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