The Importance of Warming Up and Cooling Down

By Chelsea Gayden

When motivation strikes, you might be inspired to jump right into a workout. The enthusiasm is encouraged, but before you start any routine, warming up is essential.

So what exactly is a warm up? Fitness trainer Beth Harris says that the purpose of a warm up is to literally do just that –warm up your muscles. “Cold” muscles are less elastic and more prone to injury. Warming up allows you to move more freely through a full range of motion.

Harris explains that before an airplane can take flight, it must first build speed on the runway. Likewise, our bodies must “build speed” before takeoff. Jumping right into a workout does not give our body time to prepare itself for the physical demands of exercise.

Warming up may include stretching and/or light cardio to prepare the muscles, lungs, and heart for a workout. Whether you are doing cardio or strength training, your warm-up should prepare your body for the exercise at hand.

“In my personal and professional experience, the more you warm up and cool down, the better,” Harris said. She gives equal importance to both the warm up and the cool down. A crash landing must be avoided. A proper cool down allows the body to slow down for a safe landing and recover. Plus it “attenuates the potential for soreness.”

In order for our bodies to get the most out of a workout, we must properly prepare it for takeoff and landing. A few extra minutes to warm-up and cool down prevent injury and soreness. And according to Harris, if we understand how the body works and work within those parameters, we will always have optimal results.

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