While you might be itching to leap into your exercise right away, you’ll want to take a second to warm-up beforehand. Then you’ll want to end each workout with a cool-down, whether you are a beginner or a pro, or somewhere in between. But why is it so important?
Warming up before starting your workout will dilate your blood vessels and ensure that your muscles are supplied with an ample amount of oxygen. By warming up with stretches, you’re reducing stress on your joints and tendons and allowing for a greater range of motion. Your muscles will loosen up and respond better to challenges. Warming up is essential for prepping your body and preventing injury. Each time you do a warmup, it should be about 5-10 minutes, and you know you’re done when you feel ready to take on more of a challenge.
Doing a warm-up increases the flexibility and temperature of your muscles, allowing you not only to be more efficient during your workout but also safer. Here are some tips for warming up before your next workout:
- Warm-ups should take about 5-10 minutes. The more intense the exercise will be, the longer the warm-up should be.
- Use your entire body during the warmup.
- Do the activity you plan on doing at a slower pace. So, for example, if you plan on running, start out jogging.
Taking the time to cool down after a workout is just as important as warming up beforehand. Your heart rate is still faster than normal after physical activity, and your body temperature is higher. If you stop too abruptly, you could start to feel sick or faint. A cool-down allows a gradual decrease in heart rate and temperature at the end of your workout.
Stretching is an excellent method of cooling down because your muscles, joints, and limbs are still warm. Stretching can help your body reduce buildup of lactic acid, which can lead to cramping and stiffness.
- You should spend about 5-10 minutes cooling down.
- Hold each stretch for about 10-30 seconds. If you feel like you need more, stretch to the other side, then return for another set.
- Don’t forget to breathe while you’re stretching. Exhale as you start stretching and inhale while you’re holding the stretch.
- Stretches should be strong, but they should not be painful. If it hurts, breathe deeply and relax into the stretch.
The Importance of Warming Up and Cooling Down for Children
What happens before and after your child’s sport, activity, or workout has a significant impact on their health. Children’s bones and muscles are different than those of adults. Because young bodies are continually growing and developing, it can lead children to have tight muscles, which creates varying levels of flexibility and mobility and can lead to potential injuries. However, this can all be addressed with warm-up and cool-down routines.
Whether your young athlete is a casual player or an expert, warm-up exercises can help them improve stability and mobility. Warming up before an activity will:
- Improve your child’s posture, performance, and range of motion
- Lessen the risk of injury
- Gradually increase body temperature and blood flow. During warm-ups, your child’s heart rate should go up, and he or she should be lightly sweating.
Warm-ups should target areas such as the torso, spine, hips, and shoulders to avoid tears and other injuries. Warm-ups should also include simple movements of the ones the child is about to do, progressing into more complex motions. Warm-ups should be specific to the needs of the child (age, fitness level, and endurance level) and the activity.
When cooling down, children should focus on stretching the same muscles they used during their physical activity. Cooling down will help decrease the chances of soreness and muscle fatigue. Children should follow the same guidelines for cooling down as listed in the “Cool-down Tips” above.
No matter where you are in your fitness journey, always take the time to do some warm-up and cool-down exercises. They help regulate your body and prevent injury, so there’s really no reason not to!