It’s the end of your class, and your students are enjoying every second of the workout you so carefully planned. The energy in the room is upbeat, and everyone just wants to keep going for a few extra minutes. So the million-dollar question is this: Will you keep going until the last minute, or will you leave enough time for a proper cooldown and stretching?

Regardless of how much adrenaline is filling the exercise studio, knowing when to stop can be difficult for some instructors, whether they are teaching indoor cycling or high-low. However, the cooldown is just as important as the cardio section. During exercise, the muscles serve as a second heart pumping blood through the body. When the muscles contract, they squeeze the veins and pump the blood back toward the heart. Stopping too fast during vigorous exercise will cause the muscles to stop pumping as much blood, potentially causing blood to pool in the lower body and causing a sudden drop in blood pressure. This can affect blood flow to the brain and cause a person to feel dizzy or even faint.

There are many health benefits to cooling down, including the following:

  • It helps bring heart rate, breathing and blood pressure back to normal.
  • It improves flexibility.
  • It reduces the risk of injury, especially of a cardiovascular nature.

Ideally, your cooldown should last 8-10 minutes. With so many different group fitness formats, it can be difficult to design a routine that is appropriate for all types of classes. Remember to keep the moves simple, tapering off whatever activity you are doing. Here are some general guidelines and suggestions for different activities:

  • Cycling. Go into a lower gear and continue to pedal slowly for a few extra minutes.
  • Step. Select a basic pattern with no arm movements, and slowly begin to march on the floor.
  • Running. Slow down into a jog, then a brisk walk and finally a slow walk.
  • High-Low, Kickboxing and Cardio Dance. Choose an easy pattern, such as a step-touch, slow down the arm movements and end with an easy march.

Regardless of the format, always finish your cooldown routine with effective and gentle stretches.