So, you have got through your workout and you are now at the cool-down. The music has changed, the moves are less intense and everything is slowing down...... But, do you stay and complete the full session or do you pick your things up and leave?..... after all....it is only the cool-down..... nothing important happens here, right?
You couldn't be more wrong!
The purpose of the cool-down is to let the body return to its pre-exercise state. You might argue that you feel OK and have other things to do, so need to leave quickly, so why is the cool-down so important?
During any activity, the heart rate increases, this causes the blood to circulate around the body faster. This increased blood flow is essential as it provides the muscles with the power it needs to react to demands (the workload of the class). The contraction of the heart muscle is the engine that powers the blood around the body and into the working muscles, giving you a safe and effective workout. But, how does the blood get back to the heart? The heart cannot suck the blood back via the veins - the veins also don't possess a pulse point to help with blood movement. The venous return (blood going back to the heart) relies upon the contraction of muscles to act as the driving force to send the blood back. If you don't stay and complete the cool-down section then there is a strong possibility that blood pooling can occur, usually in the lower body due to gravity. Blood pooling is when the blood isn't pushed along on its return journey so remains where it is, usually in the legs. This causes a reduction in blood flow back to the heart and also upper body, which can lead to light headedness, dizziness or even fainting.
The cool-down helps to slow the breathing and heart rate down closer to where it was pre-exercise. The slower rhythmic movement in the cool-down help to promote relaxation and can also help to decrease muscle and joint discomfort.
Two other points to have here are: the cool-down often contains essential stretching (watch out for a further post regarding this) and finally the time after the cool-down can be the time when your instructor gives out announcements.... I mean, you will want to know if your favourite instructor is away the following week or that a class coming up may have a fancy dress theme!! Also by leaving early can make your instructor feel as if you think that bit of the class is boring or rubbish....and remember, try not to upset your instructor....they are the ones who can make you squat....repeatedly!!