Warm Up, Cool Down (before and after exercise)

by Charles Platkin, PhD

It’s tough enough to get out there and exercise on a regular basis (should be daily), but adding a warm-up and cool down, can feel like an even bigger burden. However, a proper warm-up (and cool down) can do a lot of good such as dilating your blood vessels, making sure that your muscles are well supplied with much need oxygen.

Warming up also increases your muscles temperature which can help increase flexibility, increases calorie burn, offers better muscle control, can help prevent lactic acid build up and gets you mentally ready to start working out. Stretching (part of the warm up), improves range of motion and reduces stress on your joints and tendons (which could help prevent injuries).

The cool down allows for an even transition from exercise, which reduces lightheadedness, injuries to the ligaments joints, and muscles, and reduces the chance of heart attacks. Including a light stretch afterwards may help reduce muscle soreness. The stretching for warm-ups are different than the stretching for cool-down. Below I have a few tips and how you can improve your current exercise routine.

Warm Up Tips
–      Start your exercise slowly and increase your pace gradually. For instance, if you’re running, you would jog first.
–      The more intense the activity, the longer your warm-up should be.
–      After you warm up (5 to 10 minutes), you should do some light stretching.
–      Do not do static (holding) stretches or bounce stretching.
–      Examples of stretching that is not static include shoulder rolls, ankle rolls, arm circles, high knee marches, hip circles and squats without weights. The idea is to get your body moving before you move into full gear.
–      The primary purpose of stretching is to increase range of motion — allowing your limbs and joints to move further, thereby making them more “flexible.” This occurs by increasing the length of both your muscles and tendons.
–      Breathe deeply by inhaling and exhaling using your diaphragm.
–      Go through the motions of any type of weight lifting without the resistance (using weights). For instance, if you’re going to do a push-up go through the motions of reaching forward and pulling back while you’re standing.

Cool Down Tips:
–      Walk for about a few minutes, slowing your heart rate (should be below 120 beats per minute).
–      After cooling down it’s a good idea to stretch (in more of a traditional sense), hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Make sure you don’t bounce and that the stretch is not painful.
–      For a list and example of static stretches see:
–      Hospital for Special Surgery: Stretching Tips for Athletes: Dynamic and Static Stretching:https://www.hss.edu/conditions_stretching-tips-athletes-dynamic-static.asp
–      American Heart Association: Stretches for Walking
–      Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide from the National Institute on Aging:https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/exercise-physical-activity/sample-exercises-flexibility

Additional Resources:
–      Warm Up, Cool Down: American Heart Association: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/Warm-Up-Cool-Down_UCM_430168_Article.jsp#.Vz8emPkrJhE
–      Warm Up to Work Out: http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/fitness-fact-article/86/warm-up-to-work-out/
–      To Stretch or Not to Stretch?: http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/healthy-living-article/60/3248/to-stretch-or-not-to-stretch/
–      The Common Mistakes People Make When Warming Up: https://www.acefitness.org/acefit/healthy-living-article/60/5779/the-common-mistakes-people-make-when-warming-up
–      Keeping Up With Cooling Down: http://certification.acsm.org/blog/2013/april/keeping-up-with-cooling-down

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