Chiropractor Tips for Warm-up and Cool-down
Making time for regular exercise can be tough. Between work obligations, personal responsibilities and (hopefully) a social life, you may be strapped for time. But cutting warm-up and cool-down exercises from your workout routine could have negative effects on you both in and out of the gym.
Let’s look at why warm-up and cool-down exercises are key for a successful workout.
Why warm up before lifting and cool down after exercise?
Warm-up exercises are a way to get your blood flowing and your body prepared for physical activity. In general, warm-ups enhance your body temperature, energy metabolism and blood circulation. A good way to think about warm-up is a car during wintertime. Before you start driving, you typically start the ignition and let the car run, as well as scrape off any ice. The same goes for your body. Performing warm-up exercises will help get your body into gear, both physically and mentally.
On the other hand, cool-down exercises are just as important, but for different reasons. Cool-down exercises allow your body to transition from an accelerated heart rate to a regular one. More than anything, the cool-down period prevents cramps, spasms and injuries by gradually reducing your heart rate. Just like you wouldn’t put a hot plate under cold water - spoiler alert: it breaks under the temperature difference - you should allow your body the time to return to its resting state.
Warm up activities
A good warm-up plan should include both stretching as well as low-intensity cardio. This way, your circulatory system and muscle groups will be ready to perform. According to the National Health Service, there are several good exercises for this. Your total warm-up time should run about 5-10 minutes.
- Walk in place
The key here is to move in many directions so all your muscle groups are stimulated. As you walk, add in skipping, jumping jacks, lunges, side stepping and butt kicks. Just keep moving!
- Stretch big and sport-specific muscles
Focus on the big muscle groups like your back, chest, abs and legs. Hold your stretches for enough time that it’s meaningful, but don’t overextend them. Stretching should never be painful. In addition, you should stretch any specific muscles you know you will be using. For example, if you’re a soccer player, you should stretch your ankles, calves and legs before picking up a ball.
- Do your activity in slow-mo
Whatever physical activity you’re about to exercise, be sure to do it in slow motion first. This will prep your body for what it needs to do. Here are some good examples:
- Running: Start off by walking or jogging.
- Swimming: Begin with slower laps.
- Biking: Ride with low speed and resistance.
- Lifting: Start with push-ups or squats before picking up equipment.
- Sports: Use the ball for passing or shooting before using it at a high-intensity.
- Focus on your breathing
Exercise is all about getting oxygen to the right places at the right time. So focusing on your breathing can be beneficial to getting your workout started. Try adding some deep-breathing exercises before you start, or even some yoga poses.
- Boost your warm-up time in winter
The colder it is outside, the stiffer your muscles will be. Prevent pain and soreness by adding a few minutes and/or reps to your warm-up routine. You need that extra time to increase your blood flow and get your muscles ready to go. Trust us, your body will thank you.
Cool down activities
Cooling-down exercises look somewhat different than warm-up exercises. They’re focused on maximizing flexibility, as well as reducing cramping and stiffness. In addition, studies show they play a role in preventing future injuries. Your cool-down should reflect your warm-up at around 5-10 minutes.
- Jog slowly to lower your heart rate
Remember that you’re trying to transition back to a normal heart rate. Take it easy with a slow-paced jog to get you back. You can even walk or do lunges instead of jogging for a lighter cool-down.
- Stretch the muscle groups you just used
Experts say cool-down is the best time for stretching because your muscles and limbs are fluid and warm. Hold the stretches for 10-30 seconds each without producing pain. Also, try to use a full range of motion so that your muscles feel nice and relaxed. You want to be sure your muscles don’t become stiff or tense from abruptly stopping exercise.
- Drink plenty of water
After you’re done with cool-down, you should also drink lots of water. At this moment, your muscles need hydration to avoid becoming stiff and tense. By drinking water, you’ll make sure they’ve got all the nutrients they need to stay flexible and not cramp.
Listen to your body
As you are exercising, be sure to listen to your body. You should never experience pain during a workout. In addition, adding warm-up and cool-down exercises to your plan should actually decrease pain by promoting blood flow and preventing stiffness. If you find that you’re in pain during or after a workout, you should immediate stop and assess the situation. Take a rest or call your chiropractor to see what the next best steps may be.
Customize your workout plan
If you’re looking for customized warm-up and cool-down exercises for your workout, or you’re experiencing pain during exercise, you may consider contacting a chiropractor near you. Because chiropractors specialize in physical adjustments and injury prevention, you may benefit from a regular session. In general, a typical chiropractic session will help restore position, improve motion, reduce spasms and relieve pain. Chiropractors are experts in looking at the big picture and can help create a holistic care plan for preventing injury, including warm-up and cool-down exercises.
Be sure to stay flexible and injury-free by following these warm-up and cool-down tips!
About Dr. Brent Wells
Dr. Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his bachelor of science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998. He became passionate about being in the chiropractic field after his own experiences with hurried, unprofessional healthcare providers. The goal for Dr. Wells is to treat his patients with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life through his professional treatment.