You finish on the treadmill. You sit down to catch your breath, only to regret it a minute later when you start to feel lightheaded. It seems you forgot to do your post-workout cool-down.
Why do you need to cool down? Below are several reasons why cooling down is an absolute must.
Cooling down helps regulate blood flow post-workout
When we work out, our fight or flight switch—the sympathetic nervous system (SNS)—activates. Elevated blood pressure and heart rate are among the many effects of an activated SNS. In turn, the SNS also promotes blood flow to the extremities and away from the stomach to provide oxygen to the limbs and the head while working out.
After exercising, the SNS turns off and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is activated. Engaging the PNS through cooling down is important for improved recovery following high-intensity exercises.
When you cool down after exercising, you allow your PNS to slowly drop your blood pressure. Otherwise, blood pools in your extremities. Since there’s no force to push the blood to the head, you also risk fainting because of the lack of oxygen supply to the brain.
Cool-down exercises help attenuate delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) results from the micro muscle tears that you get from excessive and unaccustomed exercises. This normally peaks two days after a rigorous workout session. Since an inflammatory response is part of the recovery process of the muscles, there is marked pain and soreness.
Much like warm-up, cool-down exercises coupled with concentric muscle work help attenuate DOMS that comes with exercising. This also aids in promoting recovery of the muscles post workout.
Cool-down helps restore blood pH
Exercises demand a steady supply of energy to keep the muscles running. Aerobic means of producing energy is the go-to choice of the body, but as the oxygen supply depletes, the body turns to anaerobic energy production. As the body metabolizes lactate from pyruvate to keep up with the limited oxygen supply, lactic acid and hydrogen ions build up in the muscles.
These hydrogen ions, not lactic acid, cause increased blood acidity, soreness and fatigue. Post-workout cool-down helps restore the blood’s pH by elevating depleted oxygen supply and lowering raised levels of carbon dioxide and hydrogen ions.
Remember to cool down
Now that you know why cooling down is important, give your body the recovery that it deserves after exercise. Otherwise, suffer the consequences.
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