Why is it important to warm up and cool down in a workout?
It is very important to warm up the body before exercising. This aids the performer in preparing physiologically and psychologically for exercise, reducing the chance of joint and muscle injury.
Warm up exercises prepare the body for exercising by increasing the blood flow to the muscles allowing them to loosen up, which can raise the flow of oxygen to the muscle cells. Doing this gradually increases the body's temperature. This then increases the speed and force of muscular contractions, because nerve impulses travel faster at higher body temperatures, and muscles become less stiff or more pliable.
They also help to gradually increase the heart rate and ensure that the demand made on the circulatory and metabolic systems is gradual as well. In a safe and gradual way they allow blood to be diverted away from other parts of the body such as the digestive system to the muscles being exercised. This initial part of your exercise session helps to improve neural function and co-ordination, protect major joints as it takes time to increase the supply of lubricating synovial fluid and to thicken the articular cartilages – the body’s shock absorbers.
The warm up's intensity should cause perspiration but not cause fatigue. The type of warm up needs to be appropriate for the activity planned. It also needs to be appropriate to the age range and fitness level of the participants, usually lasting for 5-10 minutes in duration.
The following examples cover a warm up:
• walking or jogging to increase the body’s temperature
• dynamic stretches to reduce muscle stiffness
• specific stretches for muscles that will be used during exercises
So in warming up thoroughly, we are preparing the body and the mind for the more energetic demands to come.
The cool down period of an exercise session is just as important as the warm up. The aim is to decrease the intensity of the aerobic session and to return the body to a state of rest.
The cooling down has the effect of:
• preventing blood pooling, returning the blood back to the heart rather than allowing it to pool in the muscles that have been worked
• bringing the heart rate back down, gradually
• preventing fainting by ensuring that the brain continues to receive a sufficient supply of blood and oxygen
• reducing the blood lactic acid levels
Once you have completed the main component of your session you can then focus on the cooling down phase. The key here is ‘gradual’. Use the first 3-5 minutes by walking, or jogging if you have been running, which will bring your breathing under control and back to normal. Once your heart rate has returned back to a state of rest you can then follow this with some stretching. Stretching the muscle groups you used in your workout will return them to their normal length, reduce the delayed onset of muscular soreness, aid recovery and assist your body in its repair process. Don’t forget to include some deep breathing as this will help to oxygenate your system.