The American Heart Association recommends people receive at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each week. This organization also suggests a person should participate in strength and resistance training at least twice weekly. While following these guidelines can lead to better health and wellness, your warm-up and cool-down are vital aspects of a well-balanced exercise routine that you may be missing.
Importance of Warming Up
Before exercising, whether you’re doing strength training or cardio, always perform stretches to gradually warm your body up and transition from resting to active. During a warm-up, you prepare your cardiovascular system, particularly your heart, for physical activity.
As you stretch each part of your body, you’re encouraging blood flow to your muscles, which increases their temperature. In return, you have more oxygen in your bloodstream to enhance performance and endurance. Warmer muscles are also more resistant to injury because they contract and relax easier. You’re less at risk of straining or overstretching them during your workout.
Through a warm-up, your vital signs gradually increase, including your body temperature, breathing and heart rate, preventing them from going from one extreme to another.
A proper warm-up also prepares you mentally for the physical exertion you’re about to endure. For instance, if you’re participating in a sport, it’s prime time to practice a skill. For the average person, a warm-up helps them focus on the activity, which can ultimately help them prevent an injury.
Importance of Cooling Down
When you cool down, your body returns to its normal state slowly. Your heart rate, temperature and breathing slowly transition from a heightened state to their usual rates.
Moving your muscles increases blood flow to them. As you cool down, the blood naturally circulates throughout your body normally again. This prevent the blood from pooling in your extremities and causing a drastic or rapid drop in your blood pressure that can trigger nausea, dizziness and light-headedness.
After a workout, your muscles may feel sore or stiff. Through a cool-down, you can ease some of this stiffness and soreness.
Physical activity causes lactic acid build-up in your muscles, which is essentially a waste product that develops when your body doesn’t have enough oxygen to break down glucose in your blood as you exercise. In the cool-down phase, your body has time to rid itself of lactic acid accumulation.
As is the case with warming up, cooling down also can aid in injury prevention. The difference is that rather than helping prevent strains and overstretching, cooling down reduces your chances of a muscle tear.
Cooling down gives your brain a chance to readjust since, for the time you were exercising, you were focused on the exercise. Completing a cool-down can prepare your mind for the next activity.