After hammering out your cardio, lifting weights, and giving your all at the gym, don’t leave without giving your body the proper cool down it deserves. Proper stretching is easily overlooked, but it is just as important as the main workout itself.

Completing a stretch sequence after a workout has its benefits, and your muscles will thank you for it. Cooling down after a workout brings your body back to a natural climate, while also helping to relax your heart rate. By dedicating five or 10 minutes to low-intensity stretching or activity, you’ll be giving your body some additional time to recover.

For a cool down, consider light stretching or walking for five minutes until your heart rate falls below 120 beats per minute. Stretching should be held for 10–30 seconds, and the key is to remember to breathe.

Stretching properly after a workout will not prevent pain entirely, but it will minimize muscle soreness. Stretching helps eliminate lactic acid that the body produces when muscles are exhausted, which in turn relaxes them.

When muscles are used repeatedly in a workout, they quickly tighten, and light stretching is a way to relax them and prevent injury. In addition, through the cool down, you can gain increased muscle flexibility by targeting muscles that will generate a greater range of motion. You can also prevent injury by relaxing the contracted muscles.

The process of cooling down is just as important as warming up, as stretching also relaxes your mind and relieves stress. Furthermore, it is a way to be more aware of your body and respond to its needs after working out.