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The Importance of Warming Up and Cooling Down

Warming Up

Before exercise, it is very important to warm up the body. This aids the performer in preparing physiologically and psychologically for exercise, reducing the risk of injury when exercising. Warm up exercises prepare the body for exercising by increasing the blood flow to the muscles allowing for an increase in their range of movement, which can increase oxygen levels in the muscle cells. Doing this gradually increases body temperature. This then increases the speed and force of muscular contractions, as speed of nerve impulses increases at higher body temperatures, and muscles range of movement increases. Warming up thoroughly also ensures that the demand made on the circulatory and metabolic systems is gradual. Meaning that blood can safely be diverted away from other parts of the body such as the digestive system and towards the muscles being worked. Starting your exercise session in this way, helps to improve neural function and co-ordination, protecting major joints as it allows time to increase the supply of lubricating synovial fluid to the joints, and to prepare cartilages. The warm up should be testing enough to cause perspiration but not so intense to cause fatigue. Warm up type should be appropriate for the activity planned. It also needs to be appropriate to the individual, factors such as age and level of fitness need to be taken into consideration, however generally a 5-10 minutes routine is appropriate. A warm up may include: • walking or jogging to increase the body’s temperature • dynamic stretches to reduce muscle stiffness • specific stretches for muscles that will be used during exercises Doing this will help to prepare the body and the mind for the more energetic demands to come.

Cooling Down

Cooling down post exercise is just as important as the warm up. The aim is to decrease the intensity of the aerobic session and to return the body to a state of rest. Cooling down has the effect of: • preventing blood pooling, returning the blood back to the heart rather than allowing it to pool in the muscles that have been worked • bringing the heart rate back down, in a gradual and controlled manner • preventing fainting by ensuring that the brain continues to receive a sufficient supply of blood and oxygen • reducing the lactic acid levels in the blood Once you have completed your session you can then focus on the cooling down. The key to an effective cool down routine is that it should be a gradual process. Use the first 3-5 minutes should be spent lowering the intensity of your exercise to that of a walk, this will allow you to bring your breathing under control and back to normal. Once your heart rate has returned back to a state of rest you can then follow this with some stretching. Stretching the muscle groups you used in your workout will reduce the delayed onset of muscular soreness, aid recovery and assist your body in its repair process. Don’t forget to include some deep breathing as this will help to oxygenate your system.