Cool Down Stretches

Almost everyone knows how important it is to warm up before exercising. The warming up process reduces the risks of injuries and allows you to work out more freely.

However, are you aware of how important it is to cool down after you exercise?

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The cooling down process refers to the gradual slowdown in the levels of activity. This allows your heartbeat and breathing to return to a more normal pace. It also minimizes the side effects of exercising, such as pain, nausea and dizziness.

Therefore, if you are planning to set up a workout schedule, or are following one currently, do make sure that you set adequate time aside, to practice cool down stretches. The ideal cool down process comprises of three main aspects that ensure total restoration of your circulatory system. You need to include gentle exercises, stretching exercises and re-fuelling. The most effective cool down stretching exercises are those that help to stretch all the major muscles in your body, especially those that you just worked on. There are several different types of stretches that you can choose from, depending upon factors like your age, your levels of physical fitness and the type of workout routine you are following.

Cool down stretches after cardio

Cardio exercises or aerobic exercises are excellent for weight loss as they cause your heartbeat rate to increase. Therefore, it is absolutely essential for you to spend some time practicing cool down stretches after cardio exercises like walking, running, jogging, swimming or cycling. Once you have completed the exercise, you need to slow down the pace a bit. For example, if you are walking, you need to walk a bit slowly for at least 5 minutes. Effective cool down stretches for runners, sprinters and joggers include the neck stretch, hamstring stretch, quadriceps stretch, hip flexor stretch, arms stretch, shoulder stretch & back stretches.

Cool down stretches for kids

Children go through growth spurts during several phases of their life and therefore, it is important for them to practice stretching exercises on a regular basis. Moreover, children are physically active and participate in sports like football, soccer, baseball, running and so on.

Some of the cool down stretches recommended for kids include arm circles, leg swings and torso twists. After running, children should practice stretches that focus on the muscles of their hamstrings, calves and quads. However, it is very important that the child is taught the stretching exercise correctly; the child needs to stretch into a position in which he or she can feel the muscle being activated. They should experience a feeling of tightness in the area, but there should be no pain. The child then needs to hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds.

Cool down stretches for elderly people

It is not uncommon for elderly people to suffer from physical ailments. However, exercising, with a warm up and cool down routine can help their health significantly. The recommended cool down stretches for elderly people may be a bit lighter, so that the risks of injuries are minimized. Some of the most commonly recommended cool down stretches for elderly people include shoulder rolls, overhead stretch, neck side stretch, arms stretch, neck rotation, arms raises and shoulder circles.

Six essential Cool down stretches

Never underestimate the importance of an effective cool down routine at the end of a workout session. During the cool down process, you allow your heartbeat as well as your breathing to return to a normal pace. Moreover, these cool down stretches can minimize the risks of injuries or muscle pain. Given below is a list of 6 essential cool down stretches and the way in which they are performed:

Quad Stretch

  • Stand up straight and set your feet slightly apart (around hip-width). Draw your abdomen inwards and keep your shoulders relaxed
  • Bend your left leg backwards at the knee, so that you bring your heel towards your hip. Use your right hand to grasp your left foot
  • You will be able to feel a mild pull spreading through the front of your left leg. If grasping the foot with the opposite hand causes discomfort, you can use the same hand to do so.
  • Hold the position for around 20 to 30 seconds, without moving or bouncing
  • Repeat the entire procedure with the next leg
  • Continue this exercise with alternate legs for around 5 minutes or so

Gastroc and Soleus (calf muscles) stretches

  • Stand behind a stationary object like a chair, maintaining an arm’s-length distance
  • Place your hands on the back of the chair, keeping your arms extended.
  • Step forward using the right leg, so that your right leg is bent and the left one is straight at the back.
  • Make sure that your left heel is on the floor and move your hips forward a bit. You should feel a slight pull in the back of your calf.
  • Hold this stretch for 20 seconds before relaxing. Repeat each set around three times on each side.

Hip Flexor Stretch

  • Kneel down on a flat, firm surface, on your right knee. Place a folded towel under your knee cap for cushioning.
  • Ensure that your left foot is placed in front of you. Bend your knee and for stability, place your left hand on your left leg.
  • Keep your right hand on your hip and make sure that you do not bend at the waist.

    Your back needs to be absolutely straight and your abdominal muscles should be tight.
  • Lean forward and shift more of your body weight on your front leg so that you feel a stretch in your right thigh.
  • Hold this position for about half a minute, before switching legs and repeating the exercise.

Long Sitting Gluteal Stretch

  • Sit down on a flat, firm surface, with your legs stretched out in front of you and feet straight
  • Make sure that one leg is absolutely straight, while the other is bent at the knee
  • Move the foot of your bent knee leg across to the side of the leg that is straight
  • Pull your bent knee up, towards your chest and hold the position for around 20 to 30 seconds, so that you feel the stretch in your buttocks before releasing the knee and repeating the exercise with the other leg

Hamstring Stretch

  • Lie down on the floor, making sure that your hip is next to the corner of a door frame or a wall
  • Raise your left leg first and rest the heel against the wall. Bend your left knee a bit
  • Straighten your left leg gently, so that your feel a stretch at the back of your left thigh
  • Hold this stretch for around 30 seconds before switching legs and repeating the exercise

Shoulder rotations

  • Lie down on the floor, with your legs stretched straight. Place a pillow under your head, for comfort.
  • Stretch your arms out, towards the sides, placing them on the floor.
  • Bend your elbow and raise your hands so that your arms remain on the floor and your hands point towards the ceiling.
  • From the elbow, let your arms roll back slowly, so that your hands are flat on the floor, palms facing upwards. Your hands will be pointing towards your head.
  • Again, raise your hands so that they point towards the ceiling.
  • Allow your arms to roll forward, till your palms are placed flat on the ground, pointing towards your hips.
  • Hold each position for about 15 to 20 seconds, before repeating the exercise around 5 times.
Other Stretches

Ankle Rotations

  • Sit down or lie down on a flat surface with your legs stretched out in front of you
  • Rotate the right foot in a clockwise direction in large and complete circles around 10 times
  • Rotate the same foot in the counter clockwise direction in the same large circles, another 10 times
  • Repeat the exercise with the other foot

Neck Rotation

  • Breathe in, making sure that your shoulders are down, your abdomen is in and your chest is lifted.
  • Breathe out and turn your head towards the right. Stare at a point for about 5 seconds continuously.
  • Breathe in and bring your head back to the center.
  • Breathe out and turn your head towards the right once again, a little farther if possible, staring at another focal point for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat the series by turning the head the other way.

Upward Facing Dog

  • Lie down on your stomach, with your face down on a mat. Stretch your legs, placing them slightly apart, at hip-distance.
  • Place your palms flat on the ground, bending your arms at the elbows. Spread your fingers so that your arms are plugged into the floor.
  • Keep your wrist-joints parallel to the front edge of the mat, so that your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
  • Depress your feet downwards, so that the tops of all your toes press into the floor
  • Applying pressure on your palms, lift your body gently off the floor. Only your hands and the toes of your feet should be on the floor; the rest of your body should be elevated.
  • Bend your head and neck as far back as possible, to increase the arch.
  • Hold the position for at least 20 to 30 seconds, before returning to the starting position.

Child Pose

  • Kneel down with your knees and feet close to each other.
  • Lean forward, bringing your abdomen down, towards your thighs, so that you can rest your forehead on the floor.
  • Place both your hands behind your back, clasping one wrist with the other hand.
  • Hold this position for the next 10 to 12 breaths.
  • To end this position, raise your forehead and lift your upper body. Release your hands after you are sitting straight.

The benefits of cool down stretches

You are probably aware that you need to cool down for about 10 to 15 minutes after working out, but do you know why you should do so? Given below are some of the most important cool down stretches benefits:

  • Your breathing and your heart rate returns to normal
  • The circulation of blood continues, so the muscles and ligaments in your body receive oxygen and other nutrients
  • It prevents muscle soreness which usually occurs when you start exercising
  • The range of movements in your joints improves gradually
  • You get to unwind physically and mentally

Cool down stretches: Do's & Don'ts

There are several guidelines you can follow for your cool down stretches routine. Given below are a few important "Stretching Dos":

  • Drink adequate water so that you stay hydrated
  • Breathe slowly and deeply throughout your workout routine
  • Stretch evenly so that you cover all the major muscle groups
  • Maintain the right posture, without slouching, at all times

There are several factors that you should bear in mind while stretching, as they should be strictly avoided. Given below are some of the important "Stretching Don'ts" that can lead to an injury or other side effects:

  • Don't bounce; instead use even, steady movements when you are stretching.
  • Never overstretch any part of your body. By practicing stretches every day you may be able to achieve flexibility, but do not push yourself
  • Make sure that you do not overextend your joints at any time.
  • Do not continue stretching if you are in pain. You need to feel slight pressure, but if you feel pain at any time, you should stop immediately
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