You started with a dynamic warm-up, crushed a treadmill run, and are ready to hit the shower. Before you do, spend a few minutes doing these stretches for flexibility. Stretching may not be the most exciting part of your workout, but it’s an important tenant of a well-rounded fitness routine. Taking time to stretch after a cardio workout will help your body cool down, improve your flexibility, and keep your body working like a well-oiled machine.
Why should you stretch after a cardio workout?
As SELF has previously reported, stretching post-workout gives your body a chance to cool down properly. It’s important to make time for that—versus just abruptly stopping your workout—so that your body has a chance to slowly recalibrate. Otherwise, you might feel lightheaded or dizzy if your heart rate and breathing rate are trying to go from one extreme (intense!) to the next (less intense!).
Stretching after a workout may also help you recover more quickly, thanks to the way it increases blood flow to muscles and soft tissues that need all those good nutrients and oxygen to repair themselves, Jennifer Morgan, P.T., D.P.T., C.S.C.S., a sports physical therapist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, previously told SELF.
Focusing on stretches for flexibility post-workout is typically recommended over doing them beforehand. Dynamic stretches, which are more active and focused on moving your body through similar motions that you’ll do in your workout, are great for warming up. But static stretches, which are the classic hold-a-stretch moves you think about when you think about flexibility training, are best to save until the end of the workout. As SELF has previously reported, research suggests static stretching can potentially reduce strength, power, and explosiveness if done right before a workout—all things you might need to crush your cardio routine.
It’s also best to stretch when your body is already warmed up (to reduce the risk of pulling or straining anything). There’s no better time for warm muscles and tendons than right after a sweaty cardio workout.