Many of us warm up before exercise, but did you know it’s just as important to cool down afterwards, to safely return your body back to its resting state?

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What exactly is cooling down?

After exercise, your body needs to adapt to the change of intensity and regulate bodily functions back to normal settings. With a cool down, you’re still active but at a slower pace, with stretches at the end to round it off.

The American Heart Association suggests 5 minutes of walking or gentle jogging is adequate, but more strenuous and demanding exercise would benefit from a longer cool down. The session should be able to bring the heart rate back to under 120 bpm.

Without a cool down session, personal trainer, Phyllis Mammarelli, notes that it will take your body longer to recover, especially when it comes to your heart rate:  #

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Here are a few important benefits to cooling down after sweating it out.

Stabilising your heart rate

Whether you’ve had a gym session, a run, a swim, or a session of rugby drills from, your heart rate can rise quite considerably, as your heart works harder to pump blood and oxygen around your body. Suddenly stopping exercise is a shock to your system and blood will be pooled in the lower extremities, which can leave you feeling lightheaded and nauseous. A cool down will instead help to gradually bring the heart rate back to a normal level.

It can soothe muscles

While there are conflicting findings on this, it’s possible that cooling down can reduce the burning sensation and soreness of muscles, by reducing the lactic acid and resulting muscle pH that increases during exercise.

It literally cools you down

A cool down will gradually bring your body temperature back down. You also lose water and electrolytes through sweat, so it’s important to rehydrate afterwards.

It keeps you flexible

Stretching is often done towards the end of a cool down. This can minimise the chance of a post-exercise injury and it can also increasing your overall flexibility. Your body should be stretched slowly and statically, without bouncing and being gentle with the movements. It should be thorough enough to ensure all muscles you’ve been working during exercise have been attended to. Make sure you keep your breathing even and regular.

The importance of cooling down after exercise