The cool-down serves to restore your body and mind after physical exertion. Cooling-down is achieved by gradually slowing the intensity of the exercise.
You are advised against abruptly stopping any sporting activity. Sprinting to the end and then putting the brakes on and sitting on the couch with a drink is not helpful for two reasons:
- The regular contraction and relaxation of the muscles helps the blood circulate during exercise. When you stop suddenly, the muscle ‘pump’ stops abruptly and the heart is put under a great deal of stress as a result. It has to take over the work that the muscles were doing.
- The second reason is recovery. During sport, the energy system in the muscles works at high intensity. If there is a sudden halt, the system carries on running for a while even though the blood circulation reduces. The consequence is that metabolic substances such as lactic acid build up in the muscles and this extends the recovery period.
Stop your exercise slowly at the end. The following exercises can provide optimum recovery after sport:
- Walk, jog or cycle gently, without any resistance
- Shake your arms and legs out or do exercises such as hopping
- Stretch the most frequently used muscle groups after running or cycling
The overall duration should be around 10 minutes for moderate exertion. A cool-down of 15 minutes will be required for intensive training or a competition (including walking and stretching).