Are you guilty of skimping on your warm-up or cool down routine?
On the days you’re pressed for time, you may be very tempted to skip your warm up and cool down routine. But is that really a smart use of your time? While it’s true that your pre or post-exercise activities won’t burn hundreds of calories or get you the six-pack abs you’ve always wanted, they still play a very important role in your workout. Here’s why…
When done correctly, warming up and cooling down before and after exercise may reduce risk of injury and increase your athletic performance. (This applies to seasoned pros, beginners, and everyone else in between!)
According to Richard Stein, M.D., professor of cardiology in NYU’s Department of Medicine, “Warming up and cooling down are good for your exercise performance—you’ll do better, faster, stronger. Stretching also makes many people feel better during and after exercise, and in some people decreases muscle pain and stiffness.”
Kick off each workout with a warm-up and end it with a brief cool-down to prevent injuries. Dynamic stretches (slow and controlled movements through a full range of motion) are an excellent way to get started. In contrast, static stretches are best for your cool down. You may want to try out the following suggestions…
Your Warm-Up Routine
A good warm-up will consist of 5-10 minutes of activity and involve every major muscle group. It will also raise your muscles’ temperature for optimal efficiency and flexibility. Your routine should include light cardio and range-of-motion exercises, as well as lunges and jumping jacks. Begin slowly, then pick up your pace. If you’d prefer a simpler routine, try walking in place while swinging your arms, or dancing to a few songs.
Here are examples of good warm-up activities:
- To warm up for a brisk walk, walk slowly for 5 to 10 minutes.
- To warm up for a run, walk briskly for 5 to 10 minutes.
- To warm up for swimming, swim slowly at first and then pick up the pace as you’re able.
A successful warm up will:
- Increase blood flow to your muscles and prepare them for the exercises to come.
- Improve coordination and reaction times.
- Increase the amount of oxygen to your muscles.
- Reduce the chance of strain on ligaments, tendons, and muscles by allowing them to move through a greater range of motion safely and easily.
- Mentally prepare you for your workout ahead and get you “pumped up”!
Your Cool-Down Routine
After exercising, it’s best to spend 5-10 minutes cooling down through a series of slow movements. Your cool-down is just as important as your warm-up as it keeps blood flowing throughout the body and prevents the light-headedness you may experience as your heart rate and blood pressure drop rapidly.
An effective cool-down routine incorporates stretching exercises to lengthen and relax muscles throughout your body. This will help prevent dizziness and muscle cramps as your breathing and heart rate slows and improve your range of motion. As you move through your post-workout stretching, hold each position between 10-30 seconds. The longer you hold the stretch, the more you will improve your flexibility. Stretching is also a great way to cool down as it reduces the buildup of lactic acid, which may lead to cramping and stiffness.
Try out these great cool down exercises!
Do your body a favor by gradually taking time to progress into your workout and cool down when you’re finished being physically active. Your muscles will thank you! Spending just a few minutes on this important component of your workout will help you prevent injury and preform your best.
Not sure how to warm up or cool down? Give these beginner videos a try…
Did you know that exercise is a powerful preventative and in some cases cure for disability and illness? Read our other Health & Fitness articles to learn more.