The Importance of Warming Up and Cooling Down.

It’s quite often seen in gyms that people just walk in and start working out immediately. They don’t really warm up before the work out and/or don’t do any kind of cooling down exercises post that. If asked why, the most common explanation seems to be that they don’t have enough time, and also don’t consider warming up and cooling down an important part of the workout routine. All they want is to start the workout and leave as soon as possible.

Lets try to see what warming up and cooling down mean, and how and why are they important to your workout.

Warming Up: The truth is that warm-up is one of the most important elements of an exercise program. It is particularly important to prevent injury. Warm-up is low level activity, such as a brisk walk or a slow jog, which should be completed prior to stretching and more strenuous exercise. The objective of the warm-up is to raise total body temperature and muscle temperature to prepare the entire body for vigorous activity. This then increases the speed and force of muscular contractions, because nerve impulses travel faster at higher body temperatures, and muscles become less stiff or more pliable. The warm-up period prepares the cardiovascular system, respiratory system, nervous system and the musculoskeletal system by gradually increasing the demand on those systems so that they are able to accommodate the demands of more strenuous activity.

Warm up exercises are also important as a form of mental preparation. Your mind can ease into the workout. This is especially helpful if you engage in strenuous forms of exercise such as hiking or cycling a steep hill, lifting heavy weights or taking an advanced aerobics class. Your body experiences a great deal of stress during these types of activities, so an adequate warm up and mental preparation increase your chances of enduring and benefiting from the hardest part of your exercise regimen.

There is an important difference between warm-up and stretching. Many people stretch and call it warm-up. This is incorrect. It is important to warm-up before stretching. If one stretches the muscles without prior warm-up, the muscles are cold and are more prone to injury, such as muscle tear or strain. Before exercising, begin with a warm-up period to raise the body temperature. You want to get the heart pumping and increase blood flow to the muscles before stretching. Slow running in place, a slow aerobic dance, or a walk-jog (all with ball), and the application of an external exercise rub, is an ideal warm-up regimen to help prepare the muscles for stretching.

The warm up’s intensity should cause perspiration but not cause fatigue. The type of warm up needs to be appropriate for the activity planned. It also needs to be appropriate to the age range and fitness level of the participants, usually lasting for 5-10 minutes in duration.

Here is a short video showing the kind of exercises that can be done for warming up before a workout:

Cooling Down: It is just as important, especially after vigorous exercise because the body needs time to slow down and it is an important step in aiding recovery. One of the most important functions of the post-exercise cool down is to prevent dizziness. The cool down also brings fresh blood into areas to help with lactic acid removal, while bringing your heart rate down to resting pulse quicker. A proper cool down also helps lower a raised heart rate down to resting heart rate safely. Further, it may also help you to simply unwind after an intense workout, easing the transition back to your normal level of activity. The cool down should occur immediately after training activities and should last 5 to10 minutes. The cool-down can be the same sort of exercise as the warm-up but with low intensity body movement such as jogging or walking substituted for running. Stretching after activity helps to ensure maximum flexibility, relax the muscles, return them to their resting length and helps develop long-term attitudes to maintaining healthy lifestyles.

Here is a short video showing the kind of exercises that can be done for cooling down after a workout:

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