Importance of Warming Up Before Exercise and Cooling Down After

If exercising on a regular basis is something you are unaccustomed to, you may not realize the importance of warming up first. It is very easy to ignore warming up, but doing so puts your body at some risk. Why is this?

When you start physical activity, your respiratory rate, blood flow, oxygen and nutrient levels to your body cells, increase. These should rise at a steady rate to prepare the body for the increased stress that will come from the planned exercise.

Warm ups loosen up joints and muscles making them less prone to injury, prepare the nervous system for the physical stress demanded by exercising, get the heart pumping blood and nutrients into muscles, and create a more alert mental state. If you forgo this preparation your body will not work as efficiently as it should, and you won’t achieve the best results for your effort.

For older people, warming up is essential. Their tissues are less supple, joints have less fluid and their hearts weaker – this making them susceptible to heart attack during or after sudden exercise.
What is the proper way to warm up before exercise?

It can be done by anything that gets your heart to beat faster than the norm – walking or jogging, the use of cardiovascular equipment if available – like an exercise bike or rowing machine, walking up and down stairs, skipping.

Whatever you do, start gently. Slowly increase your pace until you feel your heartbeat increase and your temperature rising, but don’t overstretch yourself. You want to energize not exhaust yourself, so pace yourself to your current level of fitness.

After 3 to 5 minutes you should have worked up a light sweat, perhaps a bit longer if you are warming up outside or in a cold place. Now is the time to do some dynamic stretching. This aids overall flexibility but specifically in the spine, shoulders and hips. Your chosen form of exercise will determine the appropriate stretching activity. For sports for example, choose movements that will mimic those you will use on the sports field.

It is important when stretching the upper body, to do leg exercises or at least keep the feet moving, so as to avoid blood pooling in the legs. And don’t attempt stretches before the muscles have warmed up, otherwise you may suffer a pull or tear.

Don’t forget to cool down after exercise

After you’ve warmed up and run through your workout, it’s just as critical to cool down properly so your heart rate can return to its normal resting rate, and you prevent the delayed onset of muscle soreness which can happen after a day or so.

Suddenly stopping exercise or lifting weights can cause blood to collect in the muscles and oxygen gets blocked, thus increasing the risk of a heart attack. Try 5 to 10 minutes of jogging or walking plus 5 to 10 minutes of stretches for cooling down.

Exercise is essential for good health and overall fitness, but don’t forget the importance of warming up before exercise. Omitting this simple routine before your workout starts, could cause you some physical discomfort at a time when you should be reaping the mental and physical rewards of exercising your body.