We learn at school that warming up before training or playing sport is vital, but cooling down is every bit as important. We are taught from childhood that warming up is a must in preparation for any exercise. It allows us to gear our muscles up for the strain we are about to place on them and prevent injury. More importantly, it steadily increases the heart rate and circulation, which loosens joints and increases blood flow to the muscles. These all help towards an effective workout.
But cooling down is as important as warming up. It prevents dizziness, helps return the heart rate back to normal and prevents chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). Also known as “blood pooling”, CVI occurs when the blood in blood vessels expands during prolonged exercise, making it difficult for it to return to the heart from the legs.
According to many health and fitness instructors, the total cool-down period should last three to 10 minutes, or until you are ready to stop. Areas to target depend on which part of the body you trained. For example, if you have been working your legs, you will need to do lower body stretches or a slow walk. There are many helpful tutorials online.
The best way to measure whether you have cooled down effectively is purely based on common sense – if you feel your heart rate has reduced, that’s enough. If you wear a heart rate monitor, that will also tell you once your heart rate has returned to normal. There is no research to prove stretching after a session will help reduce soreness, but if you feel it helps, there is no harm in it, do so – it is down to personal preference.
Cooling down methods, including foam rollers, a sports massage or dry needling are worth investigating. If you experience any pain when stretching, stop, and consult your doctor or a physio if the pain is there the next day, and, more importantly, warm up more thoroughly next time.
By: Callum Nicholls
Callum Nicholls is a trainer at Third Space and Barry’s Bootcamp. Interview by Joti Birdi
No information is to be taken as medical or other health advice pertaining to any individual specific health or medical condition. You agree that use of this information is at your own risk and hold Fitness Blender harmless from any and all losses, liabilities, injuries or damages resulting from any and all claims.
With no specific medications currently available to protect the brain from decline, physical activity is an important aspect of maintaining brain health, along with other lifestyle factors like having a healthy diet, staying mentally active and maintaining an active social life.
If you are considering these guidelines, it is important to remember that any amount of physical activity is a great start, and it is a good idea to slowly build up over time.
While these guidelines have been written with brain health in mind, they can contribute to a range of other health benefits, including improved overall wellbeing and mental health, better physical health and better management of other health conditions.
Aim to do at least 150 minutes per week of moderate or 90 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity. This should be combined with trying to be physically active during daily tasks. Moderate is defined as a level of intensity at which one starts to sweat and needs to breathe a bit harder (like fast walking, swimming or bike riding). Vigorous is more intense and involves feeling out of breath (activities could include running, very fast swimming or aerobic exercise in the gym)
Perform additional resistance training (also known as strength training) at least twice a week. This should also be combined with daily tasks that help improve muscle strength
Undertake activities that help improve or maintain balance and reduce the risk of falls, such as walking heel-to-toe or rocking onto heels and toes (ensuring safety by doing exercises near a table or a chair)
Talk to a general practitioner (or physiotherapist or exercise physiologist) before changing your physical activity routine to ensure that your plan is safe and takes your medical history into account.
Because getting started and staying motivated can be hard when it comes to exercising, we suggest selecting enjoyable activities, exercising in a group or with friends, and keeping a diary to track your progress.
How did we write these guidelines?
A team of Australian researchers from various backgrounds and institutions reviewed the current evidence in the literature to produce the guidelines, aided by an advisory committee involving consumers.
This often leads to a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The changes noticed are not severe enough to cause significant problems with daily tasks and are not the same as dementia. However, both SCD and MCI are associated with an increased risk of developing cognitive decline or dementia in the future.
Why is physical activity so important?
More research is needed to explain in detail why exercise is so important for brain health, but it has been shown to increase the release of protective chemicals and can help keep blood vessels in the brain healthy.
Several neuro-imaging studies using MRI have demonstrated how exercise positively impacts various brain areas. One study reported an improvement of white matter structures, which suggests a close interaction between exercise and the vascular system in the brain.