A beginner’s guide to warming up and cooling down for exercise 

Are you looking to start an exercise routine? Perhaps it’s just to lose weight, or you are interested in sculpting your physique. Ultimately, whether you seek a slim or muscular body, it remains important that you don’t simply dive straight into physical exercise without warming yourself up first.

No, that doesn’t quite mean settling yourself in front of a fireplace before you begin working out. Rather, it means exercising in a gentle fashion to begin with, just so that it isn’t a major shock to your body when you start putting it through increasingly strenuous moves. You should opt for a post-workout cool-down, too…

Why do you need to warm up and cool down?

This would be imperative no matter how experienced or inexperienced you are with working out. Harvard Medical School warns that attempting to exercise with ‘cold’ muscles could risk you picking up an early injury.

Meanwhile, neglecting a cool-down — that is, another session of gentle exercising, this time after the main workout — could lead muscles to cramp or result in you feeling dizzy or faint. How exactly you should warm up, though, will depend on whether you are set to engage in cardio or strength training. 

How should you warm up?

WebMD explains that each warm-up should take 5 to 10 minutes — and you’ll know you are ready to take on tougher exercise simply when you feel ready for it.

Let’s assume you want to go for a run or any other form of cardio. Beforehand, you should choose a slow-paced aerobic activity as your warm-up; so, you could have a walk or go cycling at an easy pace.

If you are preparing to embark on regular sessions of open-air exercise, remember to first source suitable outdoor clothing, like coats and jackets. Another good idea would be to have some kind of fitness tracker, like a Fitbit or Apple Watch, with which you could monitor your fitness progress while you are outside.

However, if strength training is your ultimate goal, you might never need to leave the house to do it — as easy cardio activities from which you would be well-advised to choose for your warm-up include treadmill walking and easy pedalling on a stationary bicycle.

Keep your cool? Here’s how to gain it 

There are two things, above all, you should do as part of your cool-down: slow cardio and stretching. Once you’ve finished doing your main workout, switch to 5 to 10 minutes of gentle cardio so that you can dial down the intensity of your exercise.

Then, you should turn to stretching, which would enable you to boost your flexibility. Good examples of easy stretches you could do include shoulder rollers, hip rolls and chin drops. To do a chin drop, just lower your chin to your chest, Lauren Bacall-style, and hold that position for a count of five.

However, make sure you never push a stretch excessively. If a stretch starts hurting, start again — this time more easily — and breathe deeply as you do.