Warm-up and cool-down
The purpose of warming up before physical activity is to prepare mentally and physically for your chosen activity. Warming up increases your heart rate and therefore your blood flow which enables more oxygen to reach your muscles. A warm-up also activates and primes the connections between your nerve and muscles, which improves the efficiency of movement. Additionally, your range of motion (flexibility) should be increased by dynamic stretching.
How do I warm up before exercise?
A warm-up for light physical activity will take around 10 minutes and involve light aerobic activity and some dynamic stretching movements appropriate for the activity you’re about to perform. This could include:
- fast-paced walking
- walking up and down stairs
- fast-paced side stepping
- jogging on the spot
- arm swings
Contrary to what most people think, there is little evidence that static stretching reduces your risk of injury during physical activity or exercise, or even soreness the next day. However dynamic stretching, incorporated into an aerobic warm-up, remains very popular.
How do I cool down after exercise?
Simply reduce the intensity of the activity you have been doing – if you have been jogging, then walk; if you have been running, then jog; fast swimming then easy swim. This will help you gradually reduce your heart rate and begin the process of recovery. Gently stretching each of the main muscle groups for 10–15 seconds will restore their length and can help bring your mind and body back to a resting state.