Warming Up and Cooling Down
It’s very important to warm up and cool down before and after exercise. Whether that exercise is housework, gardening, or an exercise program or sport.
A good warm-up before a workout dilates your blood vessels, ensuring that your muscles are well supplied with oxygen. It also raises your muscles’ temperature for optimal flexibility and efficiency, reducing the possibility of injury. By slowly raising your heart rate, the warm-up also helps minimize stress on your heart.
The warm-up 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.
The following examples cover a warm-up:
- walking or jogging to increase the body’s temperature
- dynamic stretches to reduce muscle stiffness
- specific stretches for muscles that will be used during exercises
So in warming up thoroughly, we are preparing the body and the mind for the more energetic demands to come.
Don’t forget the cool down once your physical activity is over. Cooling down can be extremely beneficial for maximizing performance and speeding up recovery. When a workout or activity is over, cooling down is an important step in helping your muscles.
The cooling down has the effect of:
- preventing blood pooling, returning the blood back to the heart rather than allowing it to pool in the muscles that have been worked
- bringing the heart rate back down, gradually
- preventing fainting by ensuring that the brain continues to receive a sufficient supply of blood and oxygen
- reducing the blood lactic acid levels
You want your cool down to be gradual. Use the first 3-5 minutes by walking, or jogging if you have been running, which will bring your breathing under control and back to normal. Once your heart rate has calmed down, you can then follow this with some stretching. Stretching the muscle groups you used in your workout will return them to their normal length, reduce the delayed onset of muscular soreness, aid recovery and assist your body in its repair process. Don’t forget to include some deep breathing as this will help to oxygenate your system.