When we go to the gym, play a game of football or go for a run it is important that we correctly warm up before and cool down afterwards. By doing this we can help reduce the risk of injury and improve performance.
A warm up should take place before commencing physical activity. It prepares the body for exercise by increasing your heart rate and blood flow to your muscles. An effective warm up is one that gradually increases your heart rate and breathing rate.
We should spend at least 5-10 minutes warming up before starting our physical activity which can include:
- Gentle aerobic exercise: low intensity activity such as walking, cycling or jogging. This will begin to increase your body temperature and blood flow to your muscles.
- Sport specific exercises: sporting drills and specific movements i.e. bowling.
- Stretching: most beneficial after your muscles are already warm so should be done after a general warm up.
A cool down takes place after physical activity and helps return your body to a resting state.
By cooling down it gradually slows down your breathing, heart rate and helps remove waste products (lactic acid) that are naturally generated by exercising.
If lactic acid builds up in the muscle it can cause cramps, nausea and weakness the day following exercise.
It is yet known if cooling down prevents delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
An effective cool down includes low intensity exercise such as walking or cycling followed by stretching.
Stretching helps relax the muscles especially the ones that have been favoured during your workout and improve flexibility.
Each stretch should be held for 15-20 seconds each and repeated 2-3 times.