Skip to main content

The Beginner’s Guide To Cool Down Exercises


What Are Cooldown Exercises | Why Is Cooling Down Important | Which Workouts Need Cooldown | Is Walking A Cooldown Exercise | Full Body Cooldown

Think your workout ends when you’ve done your last rep or completed your intended exercises? Think again! Cooling down after a workout is an important part of any workout, but one that is often forgotten about.

In this blog, PureGym Denton PT and General Manager Laura Melia explains why cooldown exercises are so important, and shares of the best cooldown exercises for beginners to try.

What Are Cooldown Exercises?

Exercising raises the heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure, which need to be slowly returned to normal. Cooldown exercises are performed at the end of a workout to reduce intensity and bring your body back to its resting state. For example, after a run, you might taper the speed over 5-10 minutes until you are at a slow walk.

Stretches can also be performed as part of a cool down to deliver nutritients and remove lactic acid build up from the muscles that have been used. This can help to prevent muscle soreness and stiffness that occurs following micro-tears that our muscles can experience during a workout (commonly known as DOMS). Stretching can also help to boost overall flexibility by stretching the muscles while they are warm, which allows for a deeper stretch.

Why Is It Important To Cool Down After Exercise?

When you work out, your heart rate and blood pressure increases. This allows the body to pump blood (and oxygen) to the muscles fast enough. As we exercise, the movement helps to pump the blood back to the heart.

When you skip your cooldown and jump straight from a high intensity workout to a complete stop, the sudden drop in heart rate and lack of movement can cause the blood to pool in the muscles instead of returning to the heart and brain. This can shock the body and lead to dizziness or feeling faint. Cooling down prevents this from happening!

Exercising also causes micro-tears in the muscles, and it is the repair of these which leads to strength and muscle gains. Stretching after a workout helps to reduce stiffness and soreness post-workout by removing any build-up of lactic acid and delivering nutrient rich blood to the muscles, which can help with the repair and recovery.

Do All Workouts Need A Cooldown?

You should aim to cool down after every workout, but the cooldown can vary depending on the intensity. For example, while cardio or HIIT workouts that significantly raise your heart rate will need a cooldown which tapers the intensity to allow the heart rate to lower gradually, a low intensity strength training session may not need this if your heart rate stayed at a moderate level.

On the other hand, strength training workouts will likely need more stretching than cardio workouts as resistance training causes more muscle tears. For stretching, aim to stretch whichever muscle groups were worked out.

Is Walking A Cooldown Exercise?

Walking can be a great way to slowly bring your heart rate and body temperature back to normal and prevent the blood from pooling. Start off at a higher intensity and slowly lower the speed every 1-2 minutes, for a total of 3-5 minutes for a moderate workout, or 5-10 minutes for an intense workout. You should be able to breathe easily and talk once the cooldown is complete.

The cross trainer and cycling are good alternative options to reduce intensity too.  

Best Full Body Cool Down Exercises

A good cool down should target the muscle groups used in your workout and include:

  • A gradual reduction in aerobic intensity (cardio)
  • Static or PNF stretches

After a full body workout, the crosstrainer is a great way to reduce intensity as it moves the entire body. For an intense workout, aim for 10 minutes, dropping the intensity every 2 minutes. 

Follow this with a full body stretching routine. These are some of the best beginner’s cooldown stretches for a full body workout:

  • Forward fold hamstring stretch – 3 x 30 seconds
  • Standing quadricep stretch – 3 x 30 seconds
  • Low lunge hip flexor stretch – 3 x 30 seconds
  • Child’s pose – 3 x 30 seconds
  • Wall assisted pectoral stretch – 3 x 30 seconds
  • Cross-body shoulder stretch – 3 x 30 seconds

Doing three sets of 30 second stretches allows you to get deeper into the stretch each time, aiding flexibility. Deep breathing will allow you to get deeper into the stretch and further return your breathing rate to normal. While stretching can feel uncomfortable, it should never cause pain.

We’ve shared more stretches for beginners here if you’d like to try additional stretches post-workout. Need inspiration for the main part of your workout? Try this full body workout with weights. You can also work with a Personal Trainer like Laura to reach your goals more efficiently.

All blog posts