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Warm Up and Cool Down

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June 18, 2015

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Blog, Exercise

I’m not just talking about what happens in hot and humid weather.  It is important that before you start any exercise, even a quick 6-minute workout, you do a warm up and end with a cool down.  Warm ups and cool downs help prevent injury and can make your workouts more effective.  It’s difficult to get full range of motion when your muscles are cold and stiff.

Warm-up

Warming up gets blood flowing to the muscles, raises your body temperature and gets the cardiovascular system going.  A good warm-up should last five to 10 minutes (depending upon your workout) and work all major muscle groups.  It is best to start slowly, like with a quick march, and then pick up the pace, i.e. light jog.  From there you can transition to bigger movements.  Many warm-up routines focus on cardio and range-of-motion exercises, such as jumping jacks, squats and lunges.  Have your arms do reaching and pulling movements when doing lower body warm ups.

Female StretchCool-down

Cooling down after your workout allows the body to bring the heart rate and blood pressure back down to normal, and can help prevent muscle cramps and dizziness.  This is particularly important to competitive athletes, such as marathoners, because it helps regulate blood flow, but everyone should go through a cool down period.  Also, this is the time to do stretching exercises which relax and lengthen the muscles, improving your range of motion; stretching should not be done when the body is cold (you could do some AFTER the warm up as well).  Stretching helps to improve range of motion and flexibility, all good for the joints.  Hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds to allow the muscle to relax.

Be creative with your warm ups and cool downs.  Walk to and from the gym, climb stairs, even dance to your favorite tunes.  Be kind to your body and your body will respond in kind.

Resources:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercise-101-dont-skip-the-warm-up-or-cool-down

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20045517

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