Most people are familiar with how their bodies feel during exercise; the heart beats faster and it becomes harder to breathe. This is a response to increased work by the muscles and an escalating need for oxygen throughout the body. Once you have finished exercising, your breathing and heart rate slowly return to normal, and the more exercise you perform, the more efficient this system becomes.
Restoration of Oxygen
Breathing rates remain elevated immediately following aerobic exercise. Rapid breathing continues to move oxygen through the lungs and ultimately, into the bloodstream and to the muscles. Although the muscles are not being used as extensively as they were during a workout, this increased breathing and heart rate prevents the buildup of carbon dioxide and restores the necessary oxygen that was depleted during exercise.
Breathing Rate Variations
The time that it takes for your heart and your breathing to slow back down to their resting rates is known as the recovery period. Its length can vary among individuals, and you may have a slower recovery time compared to someone else. People who are trained athletes or who exercise consistently have faster recovery times than those who live sedentary lifestyles and who occasionally work out.
Post-Workout Cool Down
Following your exercise routine, a cool-down period is important to slowly bring your heart rate and breathing patterns back to normal. After working out, allow yourself at least five minutes to cool down, which includes slowly decreasing the intensity of your workout until you are ready to stop. You can follow this with stretches and range of motion exercises.
Avoid stopping exercise completely until you have had sufficient time to cool down. The dramatic decrease in muscle activity can cause your blood pressure to drop, resulting in dizziness or lightheadedness. Dehydration following exercise may also cause lightheadedness.
Contact your doctor if you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or dizziness persists or occurs after a workout that does not normally cause any symptoms.
Long-Term Effects of Exercise
When you exercise on a regularly, your heart becomes more efficient at pumping blood. Although your breathing and heart rate will increase during exercise, you may then have a slower heart rate afterward.
Consult a doctor before beginning any new exercise program, especially if you have a medical condition such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, any type of heart condition or a family history of heart disease. You may also need to take extra precautions if you smoke or are overweight.
Because your heart is a muscle, it becomes conditioned with regular activity and requires less effort to pump oxygenated blood. This is reflected both during and following exercise. Your heart rate will still increase while exercising, but not as sharply because the heart is strengthened; your breathing will intensify, but you may be less winded. Once your exercise routine is complete, breathing and heart rate will return to normal more quickly.