Post-Workout Cool Down & Stretching: Necessary or Not?
Earlier this week The New York Times published an article discussing whether or not you need to cool down after workouts. According to recent studies, despite what we’ve been taught in the past, cool downs aren’t necessary after a workout. The studies focused on whether or not cool-downs helped with next-day soreness and in these particular studies, participants who did a cool down and those that did not had similiar levels of soreness.
However, this isn’t to say you should end your workout on a hard push and then stop and lay down. A formal cool down of sorts may not be necessary but it is good to keep your body moving for a few extra minutes after you complete your workout. This may be as little as walking around for 5 minutes to keep the blood flowing, something you may already do after a workout.
While The New York Times article focuses on post-workout cool downs, it doesn't say much specifically about stretching. Some stretching studies appear to be inconclusive, stretching may alleviate some next-day soreness but possibly only by a minimal amount.
Keep in mind, these studies are focusing on statistical results and while they may conclude that cool downs and stretching are not be important to the general population, that doesn’t mean it isn’t important for YOU. If you’re working out regularly, see what works best for you, not what studies are saying. Try a few workouts with a solid warm up and cool down and see how you feel the next day. Also experiment with different amounts and types of stretching. Perhaps for you this actually will affect how you feel the next day, while for your running partner it may not.
Fitness and diet varies greatly from person to person. A low carb diet may leave your friend ten pounds lighter while it does nothing for you, much like a good cool down and stretch may be important to you and not someone else. Just because these studies say they may not matter to most people, think about it on a personal level. Play around with your routine and find what's best for you.