What makes warming up and cooling down important

A good workout is the main element to being fit and healthy. But the pre- and post-workout routines, better known as warm-up and cool-down exercises, are even more important as they help the transition from the normal body condition to exercise condition. Unlike personal training where expert trainers are available for guidance, people who self-train are often unaware of the importance of these routines and face an increased risk of injury by skipping them.

Warming up literally involves raising the body temperature by about one to two degrees in preparation for intense exercise. It consists of light exercises performed at the start of a workout which help increase muscle temperature and loosen up stiff muscles, making them supple and flexible and allowing better movement of the joints. This helps increase performance and reduces the risk of muscle tears and fatigue. Thus a proper warm-up is crucial before any kind of workout to prevent injury and damage and increase the benefits of the workout.

Cooling-down does the exact reverse of a warm-up, and slowly returns the body to its pre-exercise, resting state. After a workout, blood and metabolic waste products accumulate in the working muscles, which can cause dizziness, muscle soreness, swelling and pain. Performing a cool-down routine instead of abruptly ending the workout prevents this.

The prime cause for getting injured during workouts is known to be muscle stiffness. It is due to lack of warming up and cooling down, and being neglected quite often during training.

It has been proven that warming up and cooling down will improve an athlete’s level of performance and also accelerate the recovery process needed after training or during an event. As a result, the coach must encourage the athlete to religiously follow warm up and cool down as part of training.

Warm Up
The major cause of an injury during workout or whilst playing a sport is thought to be muscle stiffness and therefore the warm up should be aimed at reducing it.

Basic warm up should include:

  • 3 – 5 minutes jogging / brisk walk / cycling – to increase body temperature
  • 3 – 5 minutes dynamic stretches (slow controlled movements through the full range of motion) – reduce muscle stiffness
  • 3 – 5 minutes workout specific warmup – low intensity or light weight warm up before the main workout to correct the technique and prepare the muscle.

Cool Down
Cool down should mainly focus on reducing muscle soreness post workout and bringing the heart rate to normal range.

Basic cool down should include:

  • 3 – 5 minutes of slow walk – decrease body temperature and remove waste products from the working muscles
  • 3 – 5 minutes static stretches (stretches should be held for approximately 10 – 15 seconds).

Benefits of a warm up:

  • Increased speed of contraction and relaxation of warmed muscles
  • Dynamic exercises reduce muscle stiffness
  • Greater economy of movement because of warmed muscles
  • Increase in oxygen transmission
  • Increased blood flow and, increased metabolism and muscle temperatures
  • Allows the heart rate get to a workable rate for beginning exercise
  • Mentally focused on the training or competition

Benefits of cool down:

  • Aid in the removal of waste products – mainly lactic acid
  • Reduces delayed muscle soreness
  • reduce the chances of dizziness or fainting caused by the pooling of blood at the extremities post high intensity workout
  • reduce the level of adrenaline in the blood
  • allows the heart rate to return to its resting rate

Y. Ramakrishna

The author is a Sports Performance Enhancement Specialist. More articles by this author

Image: Flickr Creativecommons lululemon athletica

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