A brief cool-down period can help you transition from vigorous exercise back to everyday life. Here’s a common cool-down routine you can try the next time you work out:
1. Gentle exercise
Transition from your main workout to 3 to 5 minutes of gentle exercise.
The movements done here should resemble your main workout, but performed at a lower intensity. If you just went for a jog, for example, cool down with a few minutes of fast-paced walking. A cool-down after strength training might include repetitions of a previous lift but done at a greatly reduced resistance or weight.
Other common cool-down options include:
- Riding slowly on a stationary bike
- Gently swimming in the pool
These lower-intensity exercises are ways to conclude your workout in a less-abrupt manner.
Remember to breathe deeply while you do these exercises to help oxygenate your body.
2. Static stretching
Follow up the gentle exercise with 5 to 10 minutes of static stretching. A static stretch requires holding a stretch pose for a short period of time, usually 30 to 45 seconds. (Dynamic stretching calls for active movements.) Static stretching helps to improve flexibility.
Pay particular attention to the muscles that were used during your workout. For example, stretch your calves, hamstrings, and thighs after a run.
It is also recommended you gently stretch your lower back.
Be careful not to stretch too far. While mild discomfort is expected, stretching should not cause pain. If it does, stop immediately and consider visiting your health care provider.
3. Healthy re-fueling
Eating and drinking healthily within 3 hours of working out is important for your recovery.1
Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise. Avoid sports drinks that are high in sugar and calories.
Easily digestible whole foods are generally preferred for a post-exercise meal. Recommended food options include:
- Chicken breast with sweet potatoes
- Fish, such as salmon and tuna, and rice
- Oatmeal topped with yogurt and fresh fruit
- Avocado spread on multi-grain bread
- Fruit and vegetable smoothie
Cooling down after exercise looks different for everyone and should be based on your individual fitness level. Ask a personal trainer, athletic trainer, or physical therapist to help you customize your workout.
- Kerksick C, Harvey T, Stout J, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Nutrient timing. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2008;5(1). doi:10.1186/1550-2783-5-18