Most of us who grew up in the 20th century were continually reminded about the importance of “cooling down” after vigorous exercise. When we exercise, a biochemical reactions takes place that builds up lactic acid in the muscles. The prevailing theory at that time was that an abrupt stoppage of activity could lead to muscle pain, cramping and soreness, possibly as a result of lactic acid that hasn’t had a chance to disperse. The muscle soreness is referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The idea is that the gentle muscle motion during the cooling down period allows the blood to continue to be pumped through the muscles to wash away and prevent the lactic acid from building up, and thus prevent DOMS.
Now it turns out that advice may have been inaccurate. As a recent article pointed out, cool downs are not as helpful as we once thought:
The available scientific evidence shows, in fact, little benefit from cooling down as most of us do it, with a prolonged, slow easing of physical effort.
So should we abandon the gradually slowing treadmill altogether? Not necessarily. There are some smaller benefits to cooling off, especially given the fact that blood vessels can expand in the legs to shunt more oxygen to busy muscles. Halting exercise abruptly can lead to pooling of blood in the extremities (thigh and leg muscle), causing a sudden drop in blood pressure. Basically, a gentle cool down can keep you from fainting or getting light headed.
Spending five or ten minutes slowing down is probably no longer a necessary step in your daily routine and probably a waste of valuable exercise time. A simple two to three minutes should suffice. To learn more about exercise and orthopedic care, contact my San Diego offices today.