Whether you want to lose weight, control your blood sugar levels or keep your heart healthy, exercise is a must. You might prefer cardio, weight training, running, jogging or cycling at the gym or at home, but if exercise is your thing then you have to know the importance of two things: warming up before you start and cooling down once you’re done.
While the main part of your workout is what matters a lot in burning calories and keeping you fit, the prologue and epilogue to every exercise story have to be warm-up and cool down respectively. This means stretching or doing light movements both before and after your workout is of vital importance. A warm-up and a cool-down are both low-intensity exercises which are done at a slower pace. Here’s why doing both is so important.
The importance of warming up
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a good warm-up before exercising dilates your blood vessels and ensures your muscles will have a good supply of blood when you start with a high-intensity workout. This also raises your heart rate slowly - instead of jump-starting it - and therefore minimises the stress on your heart.
A warm-up also raises the temperature of the muscles, making them more flexible and efficient. What all of these physiological factors combine to do is get your body moving gradually from a resting state to the high-intensity exercise state, while at the same time ensuring that you don’t sustain any injuries, muscle spasms or other health issues while you exercise.
Researchers based out of Harvard Medical School recommend that a warm-up should last for five to 10 minutes, and must engage all the muscle groups. There are many types of warm-up routines you can try but if you want the simplest one then you can walk in place while swinging your arms.
Why you shouldn’t skip the cool down
As mentioned before, transitioning from a resting state to an exercise state is very important. Similarly, transitioning gradually from exercising to resting should also be managed properly to minimise pain, injury and other health issues and that’s where a cool-down routine comes in.
When you exercise, your heart is pumping hard, your blood vessels are dilated, your blood pressure is high and your body temperature is elevated. If you go from this state of intense activity to being completely still then what your body experiences is the opposite of a jumpstart - the sort of feeling you get when you run very fast and suddenly bump into a wall or a stationary person.
In short, stopping suddenly can make you feel sick or make you faint. You might also have severe muscle fatigue and stiffness later. Therefore, Harvard Medical School also recommends a cool-down period of five to ten minutes after every workout. An effective cool-down includes stretching exercises which help relax and lengthen the muscles, which in turn increases your range of motion.
So, the next time you get exercising, don’t forget to warm up before and cool down after.
For more information, read our article on The importance of stretching in a workout.
Health articles on News18 are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.