What Is a Cool Down?

Find out why cooling down is important for a healthy body

cool down exercises
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A cool down is an essential part of your workout. A cool down can last from 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, decrease joint or muscle soreness and promote relaxation.

Important Cool Down Benefits

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 return to normal. 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. This helps you to avoid lightheadedness or a feeling of faintness. 
  • Gradually 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.
  • Helps prevent muscle soreness. It's common to feel stiff or sore after an exercise session. Cool down exercises may help your body to feel better in the hours and days following your workout. 
  • Improved 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.

    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 at the end of your walk, you can do standing stretches to increase the range of motion in the leg muscles you just worked. Then finally 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 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 triceps 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.

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