The Importance of Warming up and Cooling Down
Why should you warm up before you exercise? Read on to learn more
Upon your many visits to the gym you may wonder why there is always an "easy" part at the beginning and end of your program on the elliptical, why training sessions always begin on a piece of cardio equipment or why the group fitness instructors always begin with low impact cardio no matter what kind of class it is. It may seem easier to just get right to it but it is very important to warm your body up slowly to prepare for more vigorous exercise and prevent injury. A 5-10 minute warm up is generally recommended involving large muscle groups that gradually increase your heart rate. Any cardio equipment or dynamic stretching can serve as a good warm up. Click here for some good warm up ideas
The purpose is to increase circulation in your entire body to warm up the muscles and increase the cushioning fluid in the joints (like greasing up a squeaky hinge). When muscles don't get warmed up prior to vigorous exercise they become more susceptible to pulls and tears and may not allow you to workout out at your full intensity. Increasing lubrication in the joints (especially those that have been injured) helps protect the joint from further damage that may result from repetitive impact or stretching movements.
During strenuous exercise, your heart rate increases greatly to supply the working muscles with oxygen to sustain the high level of activity. Cooling down is essential following a workout in order to bring your heart rate down to a resting level. If your heart rate remains elevated and you sit down immediately instead, blood can pool in your extremities, therefore lactic acid (a byproduct of exercise) can remain in your system longer causing muscle stiffness and soreness. (To get your target heart rate click here A good cool down consists of slower full body movements to bring the heart rate down to a resting level, followed by static stretching. Static stretching will help to return the working muscles back to a resting length and improve flexibility. This can also help with the maintenance of healthy joints and decrease delayed onset muscle soreness.
Next time you are in for a workout, take the time to warm-up and cool down. Your body will thank you later!
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