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Aerobic exercise: How to warm up and cool down
Done correctly, warming up and cooling down may offer help in reducing your risk of injury and improving your athletic performance.By Mayo Clinic staff
You're ready to hit the elliptical machine or the running trails. Before you do, though, consider doing a brief warm-up, followed by a quick cool-down session when you're done exercising. Sure, a warm-up and cool-down may add a few minutes to your exercise routine, but they also might help you stay healthier.
Why warm up and cool down
There's some controversy about whether warming up and cooling down offer health benefits. But proper warm-ups and cool-downs pose little risk, so if you have the time, consider adding them to your workout schedule. Warm-ups and cool-downs generally involve doing your activity at a slower pace and reduced intensity.
Warming up may help prepare your body for aerobic activity. Warming up gradually revs up your cardiovascular system, increases blood flow to your muscles and raises your body temperature. Jumping into an aerobic workout without preparing your body could lead to such problems as muscle strain or injury.
Cooling down after your workout may help gradually reduce the temperature of your muscles, especially if you've had an intense workout. Cooling down may help reduce muscle injury, stiffness and soreness, but the research is uncertain.
How to warm up
Warm up right before you plan to start your workout. In general, warm up by focusing first on large muscle groups, such as your hamstrings. Then you can do exercises more specific to your sport or activity, if necessary. A warm-up may cause mild sweating, but it shouldn't leave you fatigued.
Here are some examples of warm-up activities:
- To warm up for a brisk walk, walk slowly for five to 10 minutes.
- To warm up for a run, walk briskly for five to 10 minutes.
- To warm up for strength training, move your muscles and joints through the movement patterns you'll do during the exercise, but before you start with weights.
- To warm up for soccer, do slow, soccer-specific running drills.
- To warm up for swimming, swim slowly at first and then pick up the tempo as you're able to.
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- Soligard T, et al. Comprehensive warm-up programme to prevent injuries in young female footballers: Cluster randomized controlled trial. BMJ. 2008;337:a2469.
- Montico MP, et al. Injury prevention. In: McKeag DB, et al. ACSM's Primary Care Sports Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2007:133.
- 2008 physical activity guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/pdf/paguide.pdf. Accessed Feb. 7, 2011.
- Herman SL, et al. Four-week dynamic stretching warm-up intervention elicits longer-term performance benefits. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2008;4:1286.
- Rancour J, et al. The effects of intermittent stretching following a 4-week static stretching protocol: A randomized trial. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2009;8:2217.
- Laskowski ER (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 8, 2011.