Learn how to cool down properly after exercise

The main aim of the cool down is to promote recovery and return the body to a pre exercise state. During a workout the body goes through many stressful processes; muscles fibres, tendons and ligaments get damaged, and waste products from the energy equation build up within the body. The cool down will assist the body in it’s natural repair process and minimise the delayed onset of muscle soreness or DOMS as it’s commonly known.  This is the soreness that is usually experienced the day after a workout, especially if the participant is new to exercise or working particularly weak muscles. It is caused by a number of factors. During exercise, tiny tears develop within the muscle fibres which causes swelling of the muscle tissue, which in turn put pressure on nerve endings which results in pain.  There is also a build up of lactic acid in the muscles. When we exercise the heart pumps the blood faster around the body where the oxygen can be fed to the demanding muscles. It in turn pumps the de oxygenated blood back to the heart and lungs for refuelling and carries away  lactic acid and other waste products.  When we stop exercising the heart rate returns to normal but the muscles still contain lactic acid. This acid causes swelling and pain in the area worked.  The cool down helps all of the above by keeping the blood circulating in a non stressful way which reduces the amount of lactic acid left in the muscle and with it brings oxygenated blood and nutrients that feed the damaged fibres, tendons and ligaments to aid recovery.  We now know why we should cool down so how do we do it? 5-10minutes of easy exercise. Be sure that the movements replicate the movements you were doing during your workout. For example if your workout was running then light jogging and walking.  Include some deep breathing to re oxygenate the blood stream.  Follow this with 5-10 minutes of stretching. Static stretching or if you have a trainer PNF stretching is best.  Re fuel. Both fluid and food are important. Drink plenty of water and eat something that is easily digestible.  For more information or advice on a suitable cool down then contact Joe our Rehabilitation Consultant.

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