What You Do after Exercise Can Help Reduce Risk of Injury
Everybody knows that you’re supposed to prepare yourself for participation in any sport or physical fitness activity. But it’s just as important (maybe even more so) to engage in a good cool-down after you’re done.
When you’re done exercising, your body needs to return to a steady state of rest. That means your heart rate and breathing will go down, and your overall body temperature will fall. In addition, your muscles, which customarily expand during exercise, will go back to their normal length-tension relationships. You don’t want to do this “cold turkey,” as that can cause irregularity in the blood flow through your body. That’s what typically causes the dizziness, cramping and fainting some people experience when suddenly stopping in the middle of exercise.
A proper cool-down can also help your body dispose of lactic acid and other substances that form during exercise. It will also help get your muscles in better shape for your next workout. Many people believe that a proper cool-down may reduce the likelihood of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), but there’s no concrete medical evidence to support that.
Effective Cool-Down Strategies
When you’re done with the match or game, or are leaving the gym, take about ten minutes to engage in low-level exercise. You’re goal should be the opposite of the warm-up—you want to gradually lower your heart rate, breathing and body temperature. Walk or run in place for five minutes, gradually reducing your pace. Gentle cycling is also very beneficial. After about 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, stretch your arm, leg and back muscles. Hold the stretches for at least 10 seconds, but longer is better, as it will increase your flexibility in the long run.
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