By Shawna Reed, Exercise Specialist
It’s easy to overlook the importance of warming up, stretching and cooling down when exercising. It’s quicker to just get in, do your workout and get out. But what we often don’t realize is how important each of these elements are to having a successful workout. Here’s why:
Warming Up: Warming up before a workout is an important step toward injury prevention. A proper warm up increases flexibility and blood flow to a given area, which limits the chance of a muscle pull and joint pain. Warming up also prepares your muscles to stretch during other exercises. For example, when doing any type of resistance training, tension is placed on the muscles. If the muscles are warmed up and able to stretch further, this will increase your range of motion and lower the risk for injury.
Examples of a good warm up are biking, walking or jogging for at least five to 10 minutes. Cardio is a great warm up because it gets the blood flowing throughout the body. Remember to always start slow and work your way up to a faster speed.
Cooling Down: After exercise, your blood is heavy in your extremities and your heart rate is usually elevated. The purpose of the cool down is to return your heart rate close to resting. Stopping quickly without a cool down can result in light-headedness, dizziness and/or fainting. A good example of a cool down is walking after running. Your cool down should range anywhere from two to five minutes.
Stretching: The best time to do static stretching is after a workout as part of a proper cool down routine. The benefits of static stretching include relief from cramping, improved range of motion in the joints, decreased risk for injury and a decrease in the delayed-onset of muscle soreness. Stretching can also be very relaxing, both physically and mentally. Stretching is most effective when you are in a relaxed and comfortable position. Take deep, slow breaths. There will be some mild tension while stretching, but don’t ever let it be painful. A little discomfort is ok, but pain is not.