The importance of proper warm-up and cool down

Published on March 6, 2021

You must have heard that warming up and cooling down is a must when working out — but why? When we think about completing workouts or exercises, we need to prepare ourselves both mentally and physically. At the same time, we need to end the activity in the right manner to allow our body to recuperate. Here comes the warm-up and cool down into play. We must understand the mechanisms behind this and the benefits.

Why is warm-up important?

When the body warms up, the heart rate increases, increasing blood flow, enabling more oxygen reaching the muscles. Warming up also helps the nerves to be activated and ready for the workout ahead. The next benefit of warming up is to mobilise the joints. Mobilised warmed up joints provide cushioning, distributing forces and impacts efficiently throughout the body.

Another advantage of warming up is lengthening your muscles by conducting dynamic stretches, which are more beneficial than static stretches. Dynamic stretches are active movements where joints and muscles go through motions rather than static stretches, which consist of holding a stretch for as far as possible for some time. Research has shown that static stretches decrease strength. Lastly, and the most important reason why one should warm-up is to prevent injuries. Muscles that are stretched and have more blood and, therefore, more oxygen flowing aren’t as susceptible to strains.

Benefits of warming up:

  • Warmed up nerves and muscles can increase reaction times and increased mental focus, helping with the ability to flow into movements better.
  • Increase in metabolism as energy is being used more efficiently
  • Joints are lubricated more, therefore, reducing joint associated injuries and reducing inflammation
  • Helping mentally to prepare for the workout ahead

How does one warm-up?

A warm-up can be a light physical activity lasting around 10 minutes. It should include aerobic and dynamic stretches, which could be appropriate for your workout ahead. For best results, start slowly, then pick up the pace. Some warm-up routines are focussed on cardio and dynamic exercises, such as jumping jacks and lunges. If you would prefer a simpler warm-up, then walking in one spot while gently swinging your arms or even moving to your favourite tune would be sufficient. Make sure you check out which exercises are right for you and do your research. Here are some examples:

  • fast-paced walking
  • walking up and downstairs
  • fast-paced side stepping
  • jogging on the spot
  • arm swings
  • lunges
  • squats

Let’s talk about cooling down

After your workout, it is good to spend about 10 minutes to cool down by doing some slow movements. It will help ease and eliminate cramps and the feeling of light-headedness as you breathe and slowly reduce your heart rate. Essentially we want our heart rate and blood pressure to come back to normal. The effective way to cool down is to incorporate stretches to relax. To achieve maximum output, hold stretches for 20-30 seconds and flow from each stretch to the next.

Benefits of Cooling Down:

  • Restoring your heart rate can help with reducing the likelihood of dizziness
  • Helps with joint and muscle sores
  • Assisting with the body’s repair process
  • Help reduce mental stress

So it looks like warming up and cooling down seems to be a good idea, not only physically but also mentally. From protecting your joints and muscles to helping you unwind mentally. Next time you are thinking about skipping it from your workout-think again! It might be worth spending those extra 10 minutes to protect your body. Let us know how you are warming up and cooling down!

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from StockSnap