The Benefits of a Cool Down After Exercise

Woman stretching

Verywell / Ryan Kelly

A cool down is an essential part of your workout. A cool down can last for 3–10 minutes and includes stretches or gentle variations of the movements you did during your workout. The purpose of cooling down after exercise is to allow your heart rate and breathing to return to normal and to promote relaxation.

To gain the full benefits of your workout, it's important to finish with a cool down. Learn more about the benefits of a short recovery period and how you can begin incorporating one into your next training session.

Important Benefits of a Cool Down

You might be tempted to skip your post-workout cool down, but there are several reasons that cooling down is important.

Allows Heart Rate to Normalize

Most forms of exercise cause your heart rate to increase. Cardiovascular exercise, also called aerobic exercise, can increase your heart rate substantially. 

At the end of your workout, you want your heart rate to return to normal slowly, especially if you've been performing at high levels of exertion for longer periods of time. By coming out of a workout slowly and cooling down over the course of a few minutes, you'll help your body avoid lightheadedness or a feeling of faintness. 

Slows Breathing

When your heart rate increases with exercise, your breathing becomes deeper as well. This is a sign that you are working hard and burning more calories with exercise. A cool down allows your breath to gradually return to the same rhythm it had before you started your workout.

Improves Relaxation

One of the most important benefits of exercise is improved confidence. Your cool down is a great opportunity for you to reflect on your accomplishment and give yourself credit for the hard work you did during the workout. This can promote a sense of relaxation and well-being and boost your motivation.

Risks of Not Doing a Cool Down

If you choose to skip the cool down and end your workout with a final rep or sprint, you may be at-risk for some potential downsides.

Lightheadedness and Dizziness

As you're working out, your heart pumps blood to your legs and arms at increased rates before it circulates back to your heart. By stopping a workout suddenly without a cool down, blood may pool in your limbs and its return to your heart and brain is slowed. This may cause lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting.

Whether you're running, lifting weights, or performing high-intensity interval workouts, stopping with a rep and finishing a workout rather than slowly allowing your body to adjust to periods of rest at a standard heart rate may lead to sudden accidents.

Lactic Acid Buildup

Throughout your workout, you accumulate lactic acid, especially when performing higher-intensity exercises. By engaging in a short recovery cool down, you can help to "flush out" the lactic acid from your body slowly. Studies have shown that active recovery helps with delaying muscle fatigue and can aid in improved and more efficient workouts.

How to Do a Cool Down

The way that you do a cool down often depends on the type of exercise you did during your workout. Most cool downs last 3–10 minutes and include slower, gentle movements and stretching exercises.

For example, to cool down after jogging you might do a brisk walk for 2–3 minutes, then gradually taper your pace to a stroll. At the end of your walk, you can do standing stretches to increase the range of motion in the leg muscles you just worked.

Finish your cool down with seated stretches to improve flexibility throughout the whole body and promote relaxation.

If your workout included more strength training, your cool down might include total body stretches to increase the range of motion in the joints you just worked. You'll want to be especially careful to stretch the joints that you just worked. So if you did biceps and triceps strengthening exercises, your cool down might include bicep and tricep stretches.

It is also helpful to include relaxation exercises in your cool down. This might include a few minutes of deep breathing or a yoga-style savasana. These mind-body exercises, along with gentle movements and stretching will help you to take advantage of your cool down and keep your body healthy.

A Word from Verywell

Get the most out of your workout by ending with a short period of recovery. The cool down can help in transitioning your body from an increased to a normal heart rate and can lead you into the next part of your day.

Even a short 3-10 minute cool down can provide these relaxation benefits and can help boost the physical and mental benefits of exercise. Many types of relaxing exercise — light walking, stretching, or yoga — can be a form of cool down, so find one that works best for you.

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Malia Frey
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.