It may be tempting to not cool down after a workout, but it shouldn't be up for debate. The sheer ritual of a cooldown is good for mental clarity because it promotes a healthy sense of accomplishment, but these few minutes of low-intensity exercise also help to support and strengthen muscles, helping prevent injury.
When you skip the stretch after a workout, those muscles that were just working so hard can tighten up, increasing your risk of experiencing an injury. For serious athletes and marathoners, cooling down is even more essential since it helps regulate blood flow throughout the body, bringing it back to a balanced state.
If you're using a programmed workout on a cardio machine, your cooldown will most likely be built into the workout. In this case, all you have to do is make sure you stay on the machine! But if you press "quickstart" from the get-go or you're enjoying the weather outdoors, these tips will help you create a healthy cooldown.
Make it gradual: Suddenly stopping or slowing down too quickly is not the right way to bring your body back to center. Doing so can cause dizziness, and in serious cases, lead to blackouts. Once you've completed your workout, start decreasing your pace incrementally over a period of three to five minutes to bring your heart rate back to normal and promote healthy blood and oxygen flow.
Don't skip the stretch: Stretching after cardio may feel like a luxury on a busy day, but this is the time to work on your flexibility since your muscles are already warmed up from your workout. Try this five-minute cardio cooldown. It targets your legs, back, hips, and shoulders, some of the most common places where serious tightness occurs.