When You Don't Cool Down After Exercise, This Is What Happens

After you finish a hard workout, it might be tempting to simply collapse on the couch (or get in the car to drive home, if you're at the gym). But taking a few minutes to cool down after exercise isn't just so that you're a bit less sweaty when you finish — it's an important part of your workout. Here's what your body misses when you don't cool down:

Research has generally shown that you won't suffer any negative physical effects of skipping a cool-down — you likely won't be more sore or less recovered from your workout. But experts agree that it's a good idea to slowly bring your heart rate from skyrocketing during sprints, to a more steady pace before hitting the showers (via the Mayo Clinic).

In addition to slowing your heart rate, if you're just finishing a tough run, a cool-down will help steady your breathing as well — anyone who's tried to hop on a phone call right at the end of a run can likely remember the winded, out-of-breath way that they tried to talk. A cool-down walk or a few minutes of stretching lets you regulate your breathing before returning to normal activities (via Verywell Fit).

What are the other benefits of a cool-down?

Cool-downs aren't just physical: They're also a good chance for you to mentally review and reset after an intense workout. Picture going immediately into a meeting with your boss after finishing a grueling bootcamp with zero cool-down. Stressful, right? A few minutes of cooling down can be the difference between the rest of your day feeling high-stress, versus you feeling calm and collected, enjoying the endorphins released from your workout (via LIVESTRONG).

Don't overcomplicate your cool-down: A few minutes of low-intensity movement similar to what you were doing, or some gentle dynamic stretching, like a simple yoga flow, is enough. If you're running, walking for a few minutes will suffice. Don't forget, your cool-down is still burning calories, so if weight loss is your goal, the extra time spent moving will add a bit more of a caloric burn to your workout.

If you're feeling tired, focus more on a relaxing modality like foam rolling rather than walking or spinning on the stationary bike as a cool-down. Your muscles will enjoy the love, and the few minutes spent rolling or stretching will still offer that space between workouts and real life that may make the day feel smoother (via LIVESTRONG).