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Should I Do a Cooldown After Cardio?

By Kristine Lockwood
August 5, 2013; 8:33 AM ET

When that workout is through and the shower is calling, the thought of spending extra time to cool down ranks right up there with organizing the junk drawer. Contrary to popular belief, recent studies suggest that post-cardio cooldowns may not speed recovery or reduce muscle soreness. But following intense sessions, cooldowns might still be effective to gradually reduce heart rate and prevent post-workout dizziness.

Photo by: Flickr user MilitaryHealth

Pass On Passing Out - Why It Matters

Cooling down after exercise- especially cardio- has long been thought to reduce lactic acid buildup in the muscles, helping speed recovery, and prevent soreness. But several recent studies suggest post-exercise acid buildup has little to do with impaired performance and may actually aid muscle recovery. Other studies found that cooldowns have little effect on reducing soreness after a workout. When it comes to fighting that next-day stiffness, it seems a gradual, dynamic warmup is a powerful tool. More research is also needed to determine whether they burn more calories than immediately stopping after exercise, as the faster reduction in heart rate might affect a post-workout metabolism increase.

But don't discount cooldowns just yet. During exercise, the arteries and heart vigorously pump blood to muscles in need, and more blood usually ends up going to the extremities. But when the body stops suddenly, blood can pool in the legs, causing dizziness, nausea, and even fainting. Cooldowns encourage blood to gradually flow out of the muscles and reduces heart rate quicker than stopping immediately after intense exercise. So while cooldowns probably won't help with the next-morning aches and pains, they can help prevent passing out in front of that hot yogini one treadmill over.

To find out whether your workout warrants a cool-down, click here to keep reading.

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