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Exercise is an important part of overall health. If you’re expecting to see external results from it, though, you can’t expect to do it once and be done. And just as consistency is vital in seeing results from exercise, consistency is also key when it comes to recovering and cooling down afterwards. Rest/recovery/adaptation in exercise is necessary to allow the body time to rebuild the microtears in the muscles. Why is a recovery period between bouts of exercise important? If you are really sore from a previous workout, that is your body telling you to switch to a lighter form of exercise, focus on another area of your body, or take a break all together. Overexercising with no recovery time can lead to serious injuries, mess with your mood and energy levels, and sometimes can even affect your immune system. 

There are a variety of post-workout recovery methods, and each has its own benefits. Some involve stretching with no equipment, some require a foam roller, and some require a percussive therapy device. The effectiveness of all of these methods, however, will vary based on whether you stick to it or not. It’s a good idea to try different ones out until you find one that works best for you, your body, and the type of exercise you’re doing. When you find the best fit, make sure you’re doing it the same and right way every time. 

Warm Ups and Cool Downs

Any time you exercise, no matter what type you’re doing, it is really important to both warm your muscles up prior, and properly cool them down afterwards. Why is a warm up and cool down important? Skipping either of these can result in improper form, cramping, strain, and sometimes even injury. One of the main purposes of properly warming your muscles up is so your body temperature increases. This makes more oxygen available to your muscles, so they can contract and retract more easily. Looser muscles allow your body to perform strenuous activity with more ease. Working out with cold, tight, non-elastic muscles greatly increases your chance of injury. 

cool down stretch

In addition to warm ups, let’s talk about why cooling down is important after exercising to obtain the full benefits of the workout. One big reason to cool down consistently is so your body doesn’t abruptly go from a state of intense, blood-pumping exercise to complete inactivity. A healthy, slow and steady recovery of heart rate after exercise is extremely important. Cooling down gradually prevents blood pooling in the lower extremities, something that can cause lightheadedness and dizziness. Improperly cooling down can also create issues with the microtears in your muscles, which creates debilitating soreness. Extreme soreness gets in the way of consistent workout schedules, which defeats the purpose of consistent exercise. You won’t always feel the benefits of cooling down after exercise right away, but you will feel the difference when you neglect to do it. 

Methods

Let’s go over the main methods recommended for cool downs.

  • Cool down stretches – Cool down stretches are an easy and extremely effective recovery method. You can do them anywhere. With a cool down stretch, how you do it, and how often, can be more important than what you actually do. Many people find that a yoga cool down is a great way to relax, focus on breathing, and hit all the parts of your body that need stretching. 
  • Foam rolling – Foam rolling cool downs focus on rubbing out sore areas to release fascial tension. The purpose of this is to prevent adhesion and more soreness later. 
  • Percussive Therapy – This is a more recent mainstream method of cooling down. When done right and consistently it is very beneficial for sore muscles. There are various electronic devices used in percussive therapy (most common would be the percussive therapy gun), but their purpose is essentially to give specific areas a deep and powerful soft tissue massage. This helps tension and soreness. 

 

Author Dr. Rand

Dr. McClain has dedicated over 35 years of his personal and professional life studying nutrition, exercise, herbs and supplements and is also a Master of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

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