You may be thinking that, after completing your latest workout, the is job is done. However, that's certainly not the case! As I discuss in this blog, a cool down is essential after any workout. Find out what to include in your cool down, the 3 stages you should follow; plus, find out why they are so important too.
Louise Baillie S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise & Fitness), Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology Level 3 @ActiveLouise Ask Louise
07 June 2021
What should be included in a cool down?
A cool down after exercise should include 3 stages; gentle movements to bring down the body temperature and heart rate, such as walking. This should be followed by some gentle stretching to ease out tension in all the major muscle groups. Finally, a cool down is a great opportunity to re-hydrate, so drink plenty of water.
Helps to prevent issues such as light-headedness or nausea, post-exercise.
The 3 stages of a cool down
There are three key stages of a cool down that you should include after exercise. These are gentle movements like walking; stretches that focus on different areas of the body; and also, re-hydration – it is important to replace fluids lost through exercise.
Let's look at these points in a bit more detail.
1. Gentle movement
Once your workout is complete, avoid coming to an abrupt stop. Instead, aim to bring down the heart rate more gradually so as not to shock the body. Stopping too quickly can, for example, lead to dizziness and sickness.
So, if you are out for a run you may want to slow the pace to a jog and then a walk. If you are doing an online workout, you may want to take a stroll around the house to calm your heart rate.
Once you've got your breath back, move onto some gentle stretches.
Stretches are essential in any exercise cool down as they help the body adapt and recover from vigorous movement.
Post-workout stretches should start at the top of the body and work down through muscle groups in the neck, all the way to the ankles. We could include some lunges, for example, alongside a few gentle neck stretches.
Watch my video below for a step-by-step guide to stretching after exercise. All the examples included in this video are very simple to do and can be practised after any form of exercise.
A cool down is also a great opportunity to replace the fluids lost through exercise – often if we don't do this straight away, we can forget about it all together. Also, for shorter durations of exercise, it isn't really necessary to drink water during the activity itself. In fact, it can be a bit of a problem as it rolls about in the stomach during vigorous movement, increasing the likelihood of digestive problems! So, a cool down is the perfect time to get more water into your body, as the pace is much slower at this time.
If you are feeling particularly tired or just want to replace some of the nutrients that are lost through sweat during exercise, you could top up your water with a little Balance Mineral Drink sachet. This strawberry-flavoured drink contains magnesium, zinc, calcium, potassium and vitamin D to support muscle function and fight fatigue.
In the hours following exercise, there are a number of other things you can do to support recovery and get your body in the best shape for the next challenge it faces!
Here's what I suggest:
Take a hot bath with magnesium salts – the combination of heat along with this mineral helps to soothe achy, tired muscles after exercise.
Massage – massage some body lotion into your muscles. This too helps with any pain or tension after exercise.
Fruit, veg, and wholegrains – replace lost calories and nutrients with your favourite healthy foods. Check out my blog 'What foods help sore muscles recover?' for more information on the best foods to eat post-workout.