In my bid to promote the health body, health mind ethic, I explain this week on the Htet Tayza blog the importance of warming up and cooling down in exercise.
What Makes Up the Ideal Fitness Regime?
There are many elements that make up the ideal fitness regime. It’s not simply a case of lifting so many weights you’re lifting the equivalent of your body mass, or running so many miles you’d give a race horse a run for its money.
It’s about wisdom and moderation, and most importantly of all, common sense. For those starting out on the road to fitness, it can seem tempting to jump in all guns blazing. To do a hundred press ups and sit ups in one go. In reality, however, you need to warm up and cool down whenever you exercise.
What Are Warm Ups and Cool Downs?
So what is warming up, and what is cooling down. Essentially, they are the same thing. They are a set of gentle exercises that you gradually increase in intensity until your body is ready to take on the strain of a more robust exercise regime.
So in practise, you perform exercises that increase in intensity before you exercise. So say you are looking to perform a set of press ups. That places considerable strain on your upper arms, your chest etc.
Therefore, to warm them up, you may gentle move your arms or lightly stretch the upper arm muscles to get them used to the feeling. It works the same with a cool down, gradually getting your arms used to the lack of pressure, so they can adapt naturally to normal activities, which don’t involve the same amount of strain as a press-up.
The Benefits of Warm Ups and Cool Downs
At this point, we need to look at the specific benefits of warm ups to understand why they prepare the muscles. According to medical experts, they increase blood flow to the muscles, prepare muscles for stretching, prepare your heart for increased activity and prepare your nerve-to-muscle pathways for exercise.
So let’s take one of these benefits, gently increasing blood flow, and show why it illustrates the necessity of warm ups and cool downs. Blood is supposed to flow at a certain pace, which is why doctors measure health through blood pressure.
Therefore, rapidly increasing the blood flow could damage muscles, because they aren’t used to such a rapid increase in the flow of blood. Exposing them slowly to the increase, however, will allow the muscles to acclimatise to the change in blood flow, ensuring that they can handle the rapid increase in flow sure to be brought on by heavier exercises i.e. weight lifting. The reverse holds true for cooling down.
Warm Ups and Cool Downs Prepare You for What’s to Come.
Therefore, the answer is simple. Warming up and cooling down is essential to any fitness regime because it prepares your body for what’s to come. That preparation, assures that your body is able to handle the strain of exercise, thus ensuring it benefits, rather than harms you when you engage in a fitness regime.