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If you’ve been to a workout class recently, you know that the last 5-10 minutes of the class include an element of stretching and slowing down the intensity. This cool down phase is when many instructors see participants sneaking out the door early.

Don’t leave class early!

Running for the door can rob you of a total workout and result in potential injuries, including a heart attack at the extreme end. Here are three reasons why your cool down is important:

Heart Matters: Cooling down helps lower your heart rate. When your heart is working at 60-85 percent of its maximum heart rate, generally lowering intensity helps bring the heart rate back to normal. Skipping the cool down may lead to sudden dizziness. Plus when the heart rate lowers, your breathing rate lowers too. Lower breath rate signifies aerobic exercise, where we burn fat. If you’re heart rate and breathing rate is high, you’re more likely burning muscle ATP’s (sugars) rather than utilizing energy from your fat stores.

Muscle Soreness: As we work out harder, we build up lactic acid in the muscles. Cooling down helps push the lactic acid through the blood stream to help reduce the amount of delayed onset muscle soreness. Stretches are normally performed in the cool down phase of a class that helps target these muscles and push blood flow through those areas.

Prevent Injury: Cooling down will also allow muscles to recover faster and stretching during the cool down will help reset the muscle tension on the joints. If a muscle is not relaxed at the end of an intense workout like running, the shortened contraction state of the muscle will remain tight. This is where the tension changes the normal joint movement. A hip flexor remembering the last movement of the contraction will pull the pelvis forward and put more pressure on the lower back. If the participant simply stretches the quads and front of thighs, the normal tension relationship in the joint will be restored. When the body is left in the tight position, you will be more likely to strain or impinge the muscles are that joint.

So don’t skip the cool down. Stay for the entire class or remember to stretch and walk at the end of your run. You’ll improve your overall performance and feel more relaxed afterwards as well.

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