Now that people are incorporating exercise into their lives more and more, it is essential that the importance of warming up and cooling down is known.
F1 racers don’t get straight out and race, track athletes don’t just go out and race, Tour de France riders don’t just line up and go for it, and just because they are at elite level, it doesn’t mean that anyone below their standard should do any different. Essentially, they are leading by example, so if you want to enjoy your chosen sport more, then you should be looking to emulate the pros; that way, you’re far more likely to get the best out of your exercise.
So, first of all, we’re going to explain the importance of warming up, and then we’ll move on to the significance of cooling down:
Why Do I Need to Warm Up?
Warming up gives you a good chance to prepare your body for exercise. Not only does it get the body in a ready state, it will get your mind set right too. The main benefits of warming up focusses around the reduction of joint and muscle injury.
Warm up exercises increase the blood flow to your muscles which helps them to loosen up, while also raising your oxygen flow to the muscle cells. By doing gradual dynamic warm ups, your body temperature increases; think of it as warming an engine up before in the morning.
Once the blood is flowing and you’ve warmed up, your muscles will be at a stage where they can intensify their contractions, both in speed and force. This happens because nerve impulses are able to travel faster at higher body temperatures and muscles become less stiff, leading to more flexibility.
What’s more, a good warm up means your body can gradually increase its heart rate, ensuring that the demand made on the circulatory and metabolic systems don’t suffer from an instant plunge into the deep end!
By warming up, you are giving your body the chance to enter a safe and gradual process of allowing your blood to be diverted away from other parts of the body – the digestive system, for example – to the muscles that are being exercised.
What else should I know about a warm up?
Bear in mind that the intensity of your warm up should cause perspiration but not cause fatigue. Consider adopting a warm up that is appropriate for the activity you are taking part in. Your warm up should be lasting for around 5-10 minutes.
A basic example of a useful warm up includes the following:
- Walking/jogging – increases the body’s temperature
- Dynamic stretches – reduces muscle stiffness
- Specific stretches – targets muscles that will be used
Why Do I Need to Cool Down?
Once you have finished exercising, the cool down period is the next vital piece of the puzzle before you’re fully finished with your workout. The cool down really is just as important as your warm up. The main focus here is to bring your body’s aerobic state down to a state of rest.
What are the key benefits of cooling down?
- Gradually brings heart rate back down
- Prevents fainting by safeguarding the brain continually receives adequate blood and oxygen supplies
- Prevents blood pooling by returning the blood back to the heart instead of allowing it to pool in the exerted muscles
- Lessens the levels of blood lactic acid
If you’re going to remember anything about your cool down, it should be that being measured and gradual is the key here. The initial 3-5 minutes should be dominated by walking, or a gentle jog, as this will bring your breathing back under control to its regular state. Once your heart rate has returned to rest state you can then begin the next stage; static stretching. Focus on stretching the muscle groups you expended in your workout as this will help to return them to their normal length, lessen the severity of delayed onset muscular soreness (DOMS), aid recovery and also assist your body in the vital repair process. While you’re stretching, incorporate some deep breathing to oxygenate your system.
Hopefully, this has given you some interesting insight into the importance of warming up and cooling down pre, and post exercise. We’d suggest doing some research on what warm ups and cool downs will best suit your chosen activity, which should help keep you fitter and healthier in the long run.