In Part 1 we discussed the benefits of warming up next we look at the 'cool down’, again we are all guilty of skipping this. We are also going to discuss the benefits of stretching and flexibility.
Cooling down or ‘warming down’ as it is sometimes known is like warming up, but in reverse. Instead of preparing our body for exercise we are now preparing it to stop. You may be aware that most gym’s cardio machines (if you put in an allotted time) includes a 5 minute cool down at the end. During this time the machine will reduce the intensity accordingly to allow your heart rate and breathing to come down to pre exercise levels. Not everyone will use the cool down, but if you have worked very hard on your bit of kit, your body will probably appreciate some recovery time. If you use the cool down, well done, if not read on to see why you should be;
ü It helps your body recover and gently allows you to come back to your pre-workout state.
ü Breathing and heart rate start to come down to normal levels.
ü It will speed up the removal of ‘lactic acid’ from your muscles, reducing the likelihood of cramping and muscle soreness.
ü It prevents ‘blood pooling’ in your lower extremities.
ü It reduces the risk of ‘hypotension’ and dizziness.
Stretching & Flexibility
Flexibility is an essential component of fitness which you’ve guessed it, also gets neglected. Flexibility refers to the range of movement possible at a joint. The best time to stretch is when your muscles are warm, so 5 – 10 minutes after your cool down is good. Although that said there is nothing to stop you stretching at home, first thing in the morning within a few minutes of getting out of your nice warm bed, or after a warm bath or shower or as and when you need to, such as at work, especially if you are office or desk bound.
There are various types of stretching, but what we call ‘static stretching’ where the muscle being stretched, is placed in a lengthened position slowly with control and held just to the point of slight tension (not pain) for 15 – 30 seconds is deemed safe for the majority of gym users.
ü Stretching allows us to take our joints through their full range of motion, which is important for keeping cartilage nourished and healthy.
ü Stretching reduces stiffness and maintains correct musculoskeletal alignment.
ü Stretching helps co-ordination by allowing for freer and easier movement.
ü Stretching helps develop body awareness, as you stretch various parts of your body, you focus on them, and you get in touch with yourself.
ü Stretching allows us to holistically de stress, good for mind, body and soul.
ü As we get older, flexibility becomes even more important, because a reduced range of movement can make everyday tasks such as reaching up to a high shelf, doing up our shoe laces or even putting a coat on difficult.
So that in a nutshell is why we should all be including these three very necessary components to our exercise regime.
Till next time,