In my post last week I briefly discussed the reason behind, and some examples of warming up before engaging in physical activity. In today’s blog I will do the same but for the back end of the workout routine; cooling down.

Both of these generally overlooked and/or under-practiced activities have many benefits to an individual of any performance level.

Scientific Rationale and Exercise Selection for Cooling Down

Gradually bringing the body to a resting state (5-10 minutes after engaging in a planned physical activity)

  1. Potentially improve flexibility
    1. Using specific or corrective stretches to safely bring the tissue(s) to normaltheir resting length
      1. The more flexibility an individual has for a set group of muscles:
        1. Increased joint RANGE OF MOTION (ROM)
        2. Proper movement patterns
        3. Increased speed/rate of muscle contractions
        4. Less “work” required for limb movement
      2. Removes waste by-products, via the blood stream
      3. Potentially decrease muscle soreness
      4. Allows cardiovascular system to respond to lower demands
        1. Gradually brings down cardio and respiratory rates for equal gas exchanges
      5. Provides an emotional balance after exercise stress
        1. Balancing the fight/flight (sympathetic nervous system) & rest/digest (parasympathetic nervous system)

Types of Cool Downs (just a few examples, there are many, many techniques and styles):

  • Soft Tissue work with Foam Rolling
    1. Helps to promote blood circulation of the tissues being foam rolled
    2. When held long enough (at least 20seconds) on “pain or trigger points” it can aid in the extensibility of the muscle tissues being foam rolled
  • Static Stretches (most common form of stretching seen around the gym setting; although not always done correctly :/ )
    1. This form of stretching decreases muscle excitability
    2. Combines low force with long duration (30seconds – 2 minutes)
    3. Allows for relaxation and elongation of a muscle
    4. To perform correctly:
      1. The stretch is held at the first point of tension or resistance for ATLEAST 30 seconds

Happy cooling down!

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