The body, just as any machine, needs to get ready for use. Before you race a car, you rev the engine so it is warmed up enough to be able to perform at its best. In the same manner, our body too, needs warming up before any major physical exertion, be it physical work around the house/office, athletic events or a heavy workout.


What Is Warming Up


Muscles in their normal state, are a little stiff and the more sedentary the lifestyle the stiffer they become. In this condition, if the body is pushed into sudden heavy duty exercises or exertion, the muscles tear, resulting in very painful injuries. To prevent this from happening, the muscles need to be warmed up before any major exercise. Warming up sessions need not be too prolonged, just about 10-20 minutes is fine.


Some of the recommended exercises for warming up are:


  1. Brisk walking, jogging, on-the-spot jogging (5-10 minute duration)

  2. Body stretching exercises, the normal limb and body stretching routine; dynamic body exercises are better than static for warming up (5-10 minute duration)

  3. Special focus exercises for special athletic exercise, these are exercises which concentrate on the particular area of the body which will be used the most in the following workout


There are numerous benefits from just 15 minutes of warming up exercises. Some of the most mentionable are:


  1. Reduction of muscle stiffness

  2. Better flexibility of the muscles resulting in better contraction and relaxation movement

  3. Better oxygen absorption by the muscles

  4. Higher temperature in the muscles promotes higher blood circulation

  5. Increases heart rate, which supports heavier exercises

  6. Increases metabolism facilitating energy production required for the real exercise that follows the warm up

  7. Better movement during exercise since the stiffness of the muscles has been eliminated


Looking at the above, you realize that you cannot indeed do without warming up if you mean to complete a serious workout. The opposite of warming up, i.e. cooling down is just as important for the body.


What Is Cooling Down


Cooling down is bringing the body back to its relaxed state gradually, from a super active state. Tapering down the muscle movement before completely stopping the heavy work out helps the body to cope better with the changes that take place in the metabolism and muscles used during the workout.


Some of the recommended exercises for cooling down are:


  1. Brisk walking, on the spot running, jogging (5-20 minute duration) this will help slow down the muscles and reduce the temperature in the body and muscle tissue. It also helps eliminate waste products resulting from the workout.

  2. Static stretching exercises, as opposed to the dynamic stretching exercises, the static ones help in slowing and cooling down the body to the stationary level (5-10 minute duration)


Just as the warming exercises help the body plunge into heavy exercises, the cooling down ones help it return to its normal state. Some of the important benefits accruing from cooling down exercises are:


  1. The most important benefit is that it reduces the adrenaline (the ‘action’ hormone) in the body

  2. A good cooling down exercise set would prevent sudden fainting that could result from the accumulation of blood in the extremities of the body (away from the brain) that happens when sudden exertion is stopped

  3. It facilitates removal of waste products from the muscles which prevents muscle spasms and cramps

  4. Tapers the heart beat to the standard rate in a systematic manner preventing hyperventilation


As you see from above, it is very important for the body to have a gradual starting up before the actual heavy workout and gradual stopping after the workout is over. If the warming up/cooling down process is ignored, the body and the muscles will suffer a lot of damage both in the short run and long run.