We all know the role that regular exercise plays in keeping us fit, healthy and in shape. However, even people who exercise on a consistent basis tend to ignore one golden rule of exercise – warm-up before the activity and cool-down afterwards. Experts say that beginners, seasoned pros, and just about anyone who exercises should adhere to this rule.
Warming up prepares your body for exercise and lets you do it better, faster, and stronger. It pumps nutrient-rich, oxygenated blood to your muscles, which in turn speeds up your heart rate and breathing. It optimizes muscle flexibility and efficiency, and helps minimize stress on your heart by slowly raising your heart rate.
- Walk with swinging hands, dance to your favorite tune or do some simple stretches.
- Warming up for 5 to 10 minutes is recommended for normal exercise; increase warm-up time according to intensity of activity.
- Use the same muscles that you will use during your workout — for example, prepare for a brisk walk by walking slowly for a few minutes.
Cooling down your body after your exercise session is as important as warming it up before the activity. A sequence of slow movements, say five to 10 minutes after your workout, is recommended. This will prevent muscle cramps and dizziness while gradually slowing your breathing and heart rate. As your limbs, muscles and joints are still warm post-exercise, gentle stretching helps the body cool down as it relaxes the muscles and improves flexibility.
- Walk for about 5 minutes or till your heart rate falls below 120 beats per minute
- Hold a stretch for about 10 to 30 seconds, and expect to feel some tension while you are stretching. If it becomes painful, return to the point where you feel no pain
- Do not hold your breath during your stretches – relax and breathe normally
- Avoid bouncing while stretching
Warming up and cooling down the right way will help you get the most out of your workout time.