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Aerobic exercise: How to warm up and cool down
How to cool down
Cooling down is similar to warming up. You generally continue your workout session, but at a slower pace and reduced intensity. Cooling down may be most important to the best athletes, such as well-conditioned marathoners. For them, cooling down is important because it helps regulate blood flow. For others, cooling down may simply become an enjoyable ritual as part of an overall exercise program.
Here are some examples of cool-down activities:
- To cool down after a brisk walk, walk slowly for five to 10 minutes.
- To cool down after a run, walk briskly for five to 10 minutes.
- To cool down after biking, spin on your bicycle at higher revolutions per minute (around 100) as you finish your exercise.
- To cool down after swimming, swim some leisure laps for five to 10 minutes, varying your strokes.
A word about stretching
Consider adding stretching to your cool-down session. Stretching can increase blood flow to your muscles. Stretching may also help improve your performance in some activities or decrease your risk of injury by allowing your joints to move through their full range of motion.
If you have a tight or previously injured muscle, stretch the affected muscle after you warm up. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds. And remember to keep it gentle. Don't bounce. Don't stretch to the point of pain. Sudden or aggressive stretching motions may actually cause an injury or worsen and injury.
Be kind to your body
Finding time for regular aerobic workouts — plus warming up and cooling down — can be challenging. But if you're tempted to skip warming up and cooling down, get creative. If you walk to a fitness facility, use the trip there and back to warm up and cool down. Remember, be kind and give your body time to adjust to the demands of your workout.Previous page
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- 2008 physical activity guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/pdf/paguide.pdf. Accessed Feb. 7, 2011.
- Herman SL, et al. Four-week dynamic stretching warm-up intervention elicits longer-term performance benefits. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2008;4:1286.
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- Laskowski ER (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 8, 2011.