You’d be surprised how many decide they don’t need to warm up before exercising or think that skipping their cool down is no big deal. For the most part, this is not because people dislike doing stretching routines or winding down after their training. Rather, it is because they want to save time.
Warm up routines and cool down exercises involve performing movements at a lower intensity and slower pace. Both can boost your performance, help you avoid injuries, and support your fitness goals.
The Benefits of a Warm Up
Consider that over 30 percent of injuries seen by sports medicine clinics are skeletal muscle injuries. Medical studies show many of these issues can be avoided by warming up and stretching.
Taking a few minutes to prepare your body before jumping into your routine has several benefits:
- Improved Blood Flow. Preworkout exercises gradually rev up your cardiovascular system by raising your body’s temperature and increasing the blood flow to your muscles. This helps ease you into your exercise session.
- Enhanced Oxygen Efficiency. Your muscles require increased amounts of oxygen during exercise, so it’s important to make this oxygen more available before you begin. During a warm up exercise, more oxygen is released from your blood and at higher temperatures, allowing more oxygen to reach your muscles.
- Minimized Muscle Soreness. When your muscles are ready to exercise, the movements, lifting, and strain you put on them during your workout will be less severe. According to the American Heart Association, “Stretching…decreases muscle pain and stiffness, and…increases flexibility.”
- Injury Prevention. Warming up can help reduce serious injuries by improving blood flow to your muscles and loosening your joints.
- Mental Preparation. A significant side benefit of warming up is that your brain will focus on your body and the upcoming workout. This mental focus will extend into your training session to help you improve your technique, balance, coordination, and skills.
Cool Down Benefits
Have you noticed that most treadmills have a pre-programmed cool down period? That’s because during your workout, your heart rate is higher than normal. Therefore, letting your heart and body ease back down is essential instead of abruptly stopping all motion.
Winding down after your workout helps to:
- Support Cardiovascular Health. Slowing down gradually and bringing your heart rate and blood pressure back to normal is vital to regulating your blood flow. Stopping too quickly could result in feeling lightheaded and dizzy.
- Recover. Lactic acid builds up within your system after an intense exercise, and it takes time for your body to clear it out. Cooling down and stretching routines support releasing lactic acid. This helps to speed up your body’s recovery.
- Reduce DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). While some muscle soreness is expected after exercise, a significant amount of DOMS can be very uncomfortable. You may even be more likely to skip your next workout. Research shows that cooling down after exercise helps to alleviate excessive muscle soreness, allowing your body to bounce back before your next session.
Top Warm Up and Cool Down Exercises
When your workout includes cardio training, warm up by slowly walking (inside or outside) for five to ten minutes. You can also cycle or ride a stationary bike on flat terrain for the same amount of time.
The idea is to engage in the activity at a low intensity for a short time before ramping it up. As a result, your heart rate should elevate a little, and you should begin to sweat during a warm up.
On the other end, the main goal of cooling down is to reduce your heart rate and get your body temperature down to normal. The easiest way to cool down is to dial back the intensity. For example, if you’re running, walk at a slower pace for the last ten minutes.
Stretching after your training is a great option. Your muscles and joints are now warm and loose. If you want to improve flexibility, this is the time for deep static stretches.
What Happens If You Don’t Warm Up and Cool Down?
Skipping pre-workout and post-work exercises can have serious consequences. For example:
- A study that examined the effects of high-intensity exercise on the heart found 70 percent of people who did not warm up had abnormal ECG (electrocardiogram) readings. This was due to the inadequate oxygen supply to the heart. Quite simply, their hearts weren’t ready to perform at the higher rate needed.
- The consequences of skipping a cool down are just as serious. Your muscles stop contracting suddenly if you stop exercising abruptly without cooling down. This can lead to blood pooling in the body’s lower extremities.
Make a Plan to Warm Up and Cool Down
The next time you think you can’t spare the extra minutes to cool down after working out, consider the effect it will have on your body. These few minutes certainly seem worth it when you consider that you’re helping avoid injuries, improve your performance, support your recovery, and get you the desired results.
If you need encouragement and motivation to warm up, cool down, and stretch, it’s time to join a group fitness class.
Warm Up and Cool Down in FBBC Group Fitness Classes
At Fit Body Boot Camp (FBBC), our certified fitness coaches are trained to understand the importance of warm up and cool down exercises. In fact, at FBBC, a certified instructor leads every workout to help you build muscle, burn fat, and stay injury free.
Our supportive and motivating small group workout classes will inspire you. In addition, you’ll get loads of positive reinforcement from your others in the classes that will keep you coming back. With all this support, you won’t want to walk in late or leave the session early.
Join us at Fit Body Boot Camp today and begin your journey to optimum health.