SCIENCE TALK: cool-down, do we need it?

I have written about warm-up earlier, you can find it here. It contained benefits and importance of warm-up, the excellent warm-up protocol to follow. Now, let’s talk about cool-down. How easy it’s just end your work-out doing nothing afterwards? You have just spend around an hour hard exercise you don’t have interest or energy for cool-down. Hands up, if you can recognise yourself?

So, are cool-downs beneficial or not? Should you add some cool-down your exercise or continue the same way that you have done by far. What kind of cool-down you should perform? Cool-down can divide two sections; active and passive, which both have own advantages and disadvantages.

active cool-down

The active cool-down, require movement and often performed immediately after exercise. The movements are similar to the main exercise, they have performed the low or medium effort. Exercises such as jogging, light cycling, light bodyweight strength exercises, etc. are a good example of active cool-down.

Most of the studies have shown that active cool-down doesn’t show improvements for the same-day or next-day(s) performance or injury preventions. Active cool-down don’t either attenuate the long term adaptive response.

Most certainly it doesn’t reduce muscle soreness. And not improve the recovery of indirect markers of muscle damage, neuromuscular contractile properties, musculotendinous stiffness, range of motion, systemic hormonal concentration. Also, there is not found an effect on psychological recovery.

On the other hand, active recovery has been found to affect positively to accelerate blood lactate recovery. Even though not necessarily in the muscle tissues. It also partly prevents immune system depression and faster cardiovascular and respiratory system recovery.

The effect of post-exercise illnesses, syncope, cardiovascular complications is unsure. Also, active cool-down can interfere with muscle glycogen resynthesis.

Passive cool-down

Passive cool-down is the same as no cool-down. They require a minimum or not at all voluntary movement. Things like a sauna, sitting, lying rest, massage, cryotherapy, cold and hot water immersion, pneumatic leg compression, static stretching and etc.

Constant-torque stretching can reduce muscle stiffness and increase range of motion. Whereas stretching does not reduce muscle soreness.

Foam rolling has been found to reduces DOMS, increase range of motion and enhance sports performance.

Overall, studies have found active cool-down more beneficial than passive.

active or passive cool-down or both?

As the results of the complexity of cool-down, and studies that conflict with each other. Also, because of the lack of information, there cannot be drawn the straight line between the active and passive cool-downs. The sports, person, individual’s preference and beliefs. Some people find active cool-downs more effective than passive and vice versa.

You can combine both cool-down together, to maximise the effect and get variability to your training. But don’t spend more than 30 minutes on your cool-down. You shouldn’t feel fatigued after cool-down. They should always be performed in the low to the middle effort. You should always use the same muscle groups that you used during the main exercise. This way you guarantee better blood flow in the area and increase recovery.

MacDonald, G. Z. (2013). Foam rolling as a recovery tool following an intense bout of physical activity. (Doctoral dissertation, Memorial University of Newfoundland).

Pearcey, G. E., Bradbury-Squires, D. J., Kawamoto, J. E., Drinkwater, E. J., Behm, D. G., & Button, D. C. (2015). Foam rolling for delayed-onset muscle soreness and recovery of dynamic performance measures. Journal of athletic training50(1), 5-13.ISO 690

Van Hooren, B., & Peake, J. M. (2018). Do we need a cool-down after exercise? A narrative review of the psychophysiological effects and the effects on performance, injuries and the long-term adaptive response. Sports Medicine48(7), 1575-1595.ISO 690

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