Do I really need to Warm Up and Cool Down?
Updated: May 24, 2021
I know how you feel- the last thing I want to do before jumping into a fun exercise class is to warm up. I’d much rather have a post-game dance party with my teammates than stretch. Even though it may add a few extra minutes to your workout, warming up and cooling down is vital to performing your best and getting the most out of your workout, whether you are a beginner, frequent exerciser, or professional athlete.
Why do we need to warm up?
Prepares your body for exercise
Warming up gives your body an opportunity to ease into exercise. It prepares your body for the specific movements and intensity of your workout by warming your muscles and increasing circulation, body temperature, and heart rate. It also pumps oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to your muscles. This helps you get the most out of your workout and/or perform at your peak.
Can prevent Injuries
Warming up may reduce muscle soreness and lessen the risk of injury by loosening the joints and increasing blood flow to muscles. Keeping muscles warm can prevent acute injuries like hamstring pulls and strains, and it helps avoid overuse injuries by gradually preparing the body for exercise.
Helps you mentally prepare
Warming up gives athletes (and recreational exercisers!) an opportunity to mentally prepare for a competition or practice. Speaking from my own experience, it helps me get in the right headspace to perform my best. Teams can also use this time to practice together briefly before a game or competition.
Why do we need to cool down?
Helps restore your body to its pre-exercise state
Cooling down gives your body the chance to gradually recover to its resting heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure.
Helps prevent dizziness
Dizziness can occur from stopping a high-intensity activity too quickly. However, cooling down can help prevent this by gradually lowering the intensity of your exercise.
Prevents lactic acid build-up
Cooling down helps the body dispose of toxins and waste products created during exercise, like lactic acid. When lactic acid builds up during exercise, it can cause stiffness and cramps the next day.
Relaxes your muscles
Stretching in a cool down lengthens your muscles to improve your range of motion. It also helps them relax, which helps with muscle recovery and may reduce muscle cramps after exercise.
How to warm up and cool down
Warming up and cooling down should each take about 5-10 minutes and focus on main muscle groups.
You should warm-up right before your workout
Many warm-ups focus on light cardiovascular activities and range of motion exercises
Start with a low intensity and gradually pick it up
It may make you sweat, but you should be fatigued
A dynamic warm-up with exercises specific to your activity
Walking slowly before a brisk walk
Walking briskly or jogging before a run
Swimming lightly before an intense swim
You should cool down right after your workout
Many cooldowns are similar to your workout but at a slower-paced and reduced intensity
Gradually lower the intensity to ease out of exercise
Walking slowly after a brisk walk
Walk briskly or jogging after a run
Swimming lightly after swimming intensely
Stretching is another important part of a cooldown
Consists of slow movements and stretches
Hold each stretch for about 10-30 seconds
Best done after the cooldown when your muscles are warm (do NOT stretch cold muscles)
So, do I really need to warm up and cool down?
The answer is yes! You absolutely need to warm up and cool down to ease your body in and out of exercise. It will help you perform your best, get the most out of your activity, and recover.