Do you often, if guiltily, skip cooling down after exercise? A small but soothing body of new research suggests that you aren’t missing out on much.
Most of us were taught in elementary school gym classes that the body requires a formal period of cooling down after a workout or competition. Instructors told us that by slowing to a jog or otherwise lessening the intensity of the workout, followed by stretching or otherwise transitioning out of physical activity, we would prevent muscle soreness, improve limberness and speed physiological recovery. All of this would allow us to perform better physically the next day than if we hadn’t cooled down.
But under scientific scrutiny, none of those beliefs stand up well.
OK, well, first of all: Who in blue blazes has time to cool down? I don't. And second of all: Who has any interest in doing it anyway? It's BORING!
I train about 8-10 times a week. I run 4-5 times, and do a combination of karate/kickboxing/weights (ideally) 3-5 times. Yesterday I ran 3.5 miles at just over 9 minutes per mile - my best run in two weeks. I didn't so much as stretch afterwards - I just forgot. A few hours after that I did a "power-strike" bags class and hit that heavy bag *hard* for 45 minutes without a break. I drank a cup of chocolate milk afterwards then went and sat in the sun to read for about 40 minutes. And I am not even stiff this morning (well, maybe just a touch, but not much). Now mind you I've been training hard like that for many long years, so my body is used to it. Still. I never cool down (and no - knock wood - I don't have problems with injuries and yes, I'm in my 40s).
Hydrate yourself, eat well, sleep enough. That's important. Chocolate milk works well, too - for the more intensive workouts, to recover after. Stretching is good because it feels great (it's not actually that beneficial otherwise, except to loosen up after a day at the office). But cooling down? Pffft, not worth the time. THANK YOU SCIENCE!