These Are the Best Cool Down Exercises to Stretch and Recover After a Workout
After completing a tough workout, sometimes we don't have the motivation to do much else. Stretching or foam rolling? Eh, I'll just do it later. Which usually means never. I also know that after exercise, my mind is pulling me toward the next thing on my to-do list. I already put in the work that matters, I'll be thinking as I pack up my gear.
But as tempting as they are to skip, don't ditch your cool down exercises—especially if you want your body to remain limber and injury-free.
"Cool downs after any activity are important," says Matthew Greenfield, P.T., D.P.T., a physical therapist from Excel Physical Therapy. "Let's say you are a runner and you build your heart rate up and you're there for a while. If you just stop all the sudden, it's a bit of a shock to the body. And if you're doing a lot of strength training, [your muscles] are going to get tighter naturally. You need to do something in order to make sure that they don't stay as fatigued."
By doing just 5-10 minutes of stretching or gentle mobility exercises after a sweat sesh, you are allowing your body to ease back into its natural resting state. This will help you recover for the next day so you can jump into a new workout without being as sore—or at least be able to go about your activities feeling less achy.
All that being said, your cool down isn't the time to act like Simone Biles on the splits. "You're not trying to get more flexible here," says Greenfield. "You're trying to get back to your baseline."
When you cool down, be gentle and focus on exercises that are appropriate for the workout you just did. For example, if you just ran two miles, work on your legs. If you did an upper body circuit, stretch your chest and shoulders. To help you decide which stretches will be best for you, we've listed some of our favorite moves and the body parts they address. So catch your breath, calm your heart, and give your muscles time to relax. Your body deserves it.
Time: 5-10 minutes (30-60 seconds per exercise)