Importance of warming up and cooling down
When your body is about to undergo strenuous exercise, you should make sure that the body is safely warmed up first. All safe exercise routines should include a simple warm up and cool down section. This will ensure your body is adequately warmed and able to cope with the following work out.
When we start to exercise our bodies, physiological changes must occur in order for the body to work at its optimum level. These changes include, an increased breathing rate and heart rate, an increased blood flow to the muscle and an increased energy-releasing response from the muscle itself.
If this is not taken into consideration when exercising, the body will not be prepared for the demands placed upon it. This can then cause unnecessary damage to the muscles and ligaments or may cause premature fatigue.
You need to warm up for at least 10 minutes. Your aim is to increase your heart rate slightly and then move onto gaining flexibility. It is good to start with exercises that increase the heart rate, so you are slightly warmer when you eventually start your stretches. This way you are less likely to cause injury.
Exercises that increase the heart rate slightly are gentle jogging, fast walking or jumping. You should feel that your heart rate is slightly raised as you begin your routine. Exercises which increase flexibility include knee lifting, placing your hands on your hips and making a circular movement, raising and lowering your shoulders, gently tilting your head from side to side to stretch the neck and also gently stretch the back.
Cooling down is also a vital part of your exercise routine. You want to return your cardiovascular system to its former level. Your breathing and heart rate need to return to normal. When you are exercising, your body is delivering a high level of blood to muscles. If you suddenly stop your exercise, the high-level blood flow continues. This dramatic change in the body’s responses can cause dizziness or even fainting. Not the safest thing to happen when weight lifting or on a treadmill. In addition, whilst you have been exercising, Lactic acid has built up in your muscles. This can be removed more effectively from the muscles by performing gentle exercises in your cooling down session. By incorporating a simple 10 minute cool down, you can return your body to its pre exercise levels safely.
Your aim is to cool down slowly and let the muscles cool down at the same pace. If you are running, it is good to slow the pace to a walk. If you are weight training, it is good to perform stretches of the muscles you have been using. Cool down should last for at least 5-10 minutes. Try to hold the stretches for a longer time than you did when you were warming up. Stretching the muscles you have worked on maybe also reduce post workout aches. By following these simple precautions you will ensure your muscles can be exercised safely.
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Ross Smith – Personal Trainer Cheltenham