Warming up before you start exercising is just as important as the workout itself. This frequently skipped part of a workout not only increases blood flow, it also enhances your focus on the exercise session. That said, a good warmup can, without a doubt, improve your fitness performance; but this isn’t the only thing that your body can benefit from, however.
When it comes to exercise, what you do after your workout is just as important as what you do before you exercise. Cooling down after a workout is important for five reasons that can enhance your performance and safety in the weight room: reduce muscle stiffness, reduce soreness, prevent blood from pooling, prevent injuries, and gives blood vessels a chance to transport oxygen through the body. So, don’t be afraid to spend anywhere between 10 to 15 minutes doing a light activity like walking, jogging and stretching before you start exercising.
Another important reason for cooling down after a workout is to prevent a condition commonly referred to as post-exercise hypotension — a phenomenon that could lead to dizziness and even fainting if an individual’s blood pressure drops too low. That’s because when you exercise, the amount of blood flow that pumps through your body increases substantially. For most exercises, this involves blood vessels pumping blood and oxygen down to your legs, which means if you live and exercise in places like Oregon, the effects could be a little more severe due to its high elevation.
Therefore, if you suddenly stopped exercising and stood still for a couple minutes, blood could stop pumping and form a pool in your legs. If this happened, the brain could experience less blood flow, which would result in dizziness, fainting, and lower blood pressure. This, however, is typically most relevant for upright exercises like jogging, hiking, and walking that positions your head over your heart. Nevertheless, partner resistance exercises can also cause individuals to experience the same symptoms.
What can you do moving forward?
Continue to move at a lower speed after a workout. This can maintain blood flow and prevent it from turning into a gel-like state inside your legs as known as a blood clot. Lowering your workout speeds will also allow blood vessels to return back to normal, which means muscle activity will no longer be needed to keep blood flowing to the heart.
The main reason for active cool-down is due to the fact that there are a number of people who experience an off-balance feeling after a hard exercise, especially if they’ve been running. If you step off a treadmill too fast, for example, you’ll start to feel slightly off-balance and shaky. However, if you lower the speed before getting off the treadmill, you can help prevent this from happening.
Another technique that can help shake the feeling of being off-balance is meditation, whether that be open monitoring meditation or focused attention meditation. Open monitoring meditation, for instance, involves being open to the environment around you. Focused attention meditation, on the other hand, requires you to focus on a specific object, sound, or word.
However you approach the recovery process, it’s important to remember that active recovery enhances performance for athletes. Given the benefits of cooling down after an intense workout, taking the time needed for active recovery should be at the top of your priority list. At a bare minimum, a few minutes of cool-down exercises after each workout can prevent dizziness or fainting from occurring. Remember, you’ll want to get at least 10 to 15 minutes of less-intensive exercise after each workout, that way you’ll help your body remain in a calm state. Although this will add additional time to your workout, the benefits will make the time well spent in the long run.