Do You Really Need to Cool Down After Exercising?

Fitness experts weigh in on whether it's safe to skip this sometimes annoying step in your exercise routine.

do-you-really-need-to-cool-downiStock/sergeynivens

One of the most important steps in your fitness routine comes at the conclusion. Many know the importance of properly warming up and preparing to exercise, but experts say that incorporating a cool down routine is just as important. According to the Mayo Clinic, cooling down allows for your body to recover and return to its normal, pre-exercise state.

Though cooling down isn’t proven to reduce muscle stiffness or soreness, it can prevent dizziness and allow your heart rate and breathing to ease back to a normal rate, Harvard Medical School reports. Phyllis Mammarelli, personal trainer at the Shenango Valley YMCA in Sharon, Pennsylvania, works with each of her clients on a cool down routine as she says it’s a beneficial part of exercising.

“Cooling down allows your body to gradually return to a low-intensity activity level, slowly reducing your respiratory and heart rate until it’s equalized and back to normal” she says.

Skipping the recovery phase of a workout isn’t proven to be harmful to your body, but Mammarelli warns that without cooling down, the body will take longer to return back to the low-intensity level activity level you began your workout with.

There are also non-threatening side effects that could occur as a result of forgoing a cool down. Mammarelli warns that blood can gather or pool in your lower extremities and lead to dizziness and fainting. Additionally, ACE says to keep an eye on your muscle soreness and stiffness. While soreness after a workout is to be expected, delayed onset muscle soreness can occur 24-48 hours after your workout and cause “uncomfortable debilitating pain.” Side effects are mostly seen in the elderly or those with cardiovascular disease and can be eased by warming up and cooling down. Here are some other signs that you might be working out too much.

Allow five to 10 minutes at the conclusion of your workout for a cool-down routine. During this period, continue your workout session, but at a much reduced rate. If you’re pressed for time during your workouts or unsure how to allow your body to recover, Mammarelli suggests stretching muscles in a pain-free range of motion. Here’s an easy stretch routine to try.

Tacking on a few additional minutes to your workout for cooling down may seem like an inconvenience, but the benefits outweigh the cost of finding extra time in your schedule. If you need inspiration for scheduling the time to workout and cool down look to these women who work out every day.

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