Does cooling down reduce muscle soreness?

The cool down is just as important as your warm up and workout, but what does it mean to cool down and what does it really do for you? If you are the avid lifter and serious about working out, whether it's body building, Crossfit, or training for a marathon, you are probably already taking time to cool down. For those who are not cooling down, you need to be!

Just the facts!

Fact: During your workout, your blood vessels expand, especially in your lower extremities, increasing the amount of blood going to your muscles. After you have finished a hard workout, your heart rate drops rather quickly, your blood vessels restrict and blood collects in your lower extremities. Your blood is actually pumping into your legs faster than it can pump out, preventing the blood flow you need to your brain, causing lightheadedness, nausea, and possible  fainting. Taking the time to cool down reduces these effects significantly.

Myth: Cooling down reduces muscle soreness, true or false? Cooling down does not reduce muscle soreness or the chance of injury. This is an old wives tale that has never been proven. There is no scientific proof that it can reduce the amount of lactic acid build up in your muscles from a tough workout. What can reduce muscle soreness is warming up before your workout, but that is another discussion. "Busted"

Fact:: Taking the time to cool down at least five minutes, will reduce your heart rate at a slower rate than just stopping abruptly and either sitting or laying down. Your blood flow has a chance to return to normal or as close to normal, rather than gathering in your legs.

Your cool down does not need to be a workout in itself, it could be riding a bike, rowing, or walking around. The whole purpose of cooling down is to:

  • reduce your heart rate slowly, so your body has time to regulate your blood flow (get back to normal) & your blood is pumping to at the same rate as it is pumping from of your legs.
  • reduce your body temperature
  • breathing can return to normal
  • reduce the chance of muscle spasms or cramping
  • helps jump start the recovery process, getting you ready for the next workout.

How long should you personally cool down?

The amount of time you spend on cooling down is going to be different for everyone. It depends on how strenuous your workout was and how long it takes your body to get back to normal. Beyond a minimum cool down of five minutes, the best way to gauge how long you should take to cool down is with a heart rate monitor. A heart rate monitor allows to monitor your heart rate so you can slow your heart rate down gradually.

The bottom line, cooling down helps get you body back to normal. It does mean you will have less muscle soreness tomorrow, it's more about the here and now, your physical stability, how you feel physically, and how quickly fatigue sets in. So next time you hit the gym or road for a workout, don't forget to take time and cool down. You will feel better and your body will thank you.

by Christian Sciarrino





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