A couple of months ago we looked at why we always warm you up and mobilise your joints before you set off on a walk. This time we explain why its important to stretch and cool down after every walk.
We know you have busy lives and often want to dash off at the end of the walk but if you want to stay mobile and minimise aches and pains – a proper cool down is essential
The purpose of cooling down is to actually allow your heart rate and breathing to return to normal levels and to decrease joint or muscle soreness. It also helps you to relax and feel the after exercise benefits rather than being rushed, hot and bothered. Miss it and you will tighten up and regret it the next day.
So why is it important to slow the heart rate down gradually? Cardiovascular exercise increases your heart rate quite substantially and its really good for you to do this but if you stop suddenly it can cause light-headedness or a feeling of faintness. This is because blood can pool in the lower part of the body and the major muscles and not be equally circulated to important areas like your brain!
Your breathing will also have become deeper so a gentle phased cool down helps to return to its usual rhythm. Just as you would not expect to sprint off without warming up, you should take a little time to allow your body to transition between the exercise state and normality in order to help it improve functionality and reduce stress on your system.
It’s the same with muscles and soft tissue. Think of an elastic band that has been warmed and stretched and then suddenly plunged into cold water. It will tighten up and shorten which is exactly what your muscles do when they have been working hard UNLESS you take time allow them to flush through the lactic acid produced during exercise. The stretches we guide you through will keep the muscles long and avoid straining of the tendons and ligaments which will cause joint stiffness.
Many Nordic Walkers comment on how they have gained flexibility and mobility since they took up walking with their poles but its important to appreciate that these benefits are more likely to be down to good preparation before the walk and the cool down stretches at the end.
So next time you pick up your poles whether with a group or on your own, take a few minutes to be kind to your body!